Canadian

The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje's novel won the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 1992.

Michael Ondaatje

With ravishing beauty and unsettling intelligence, Michael Ondaatje's novel traces the intersection of four damaged lives in an Italian villa at the end of the Second World War. Hana, the exhausted nurse; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burned man who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of lightning. (From Vintage Canada)

The English Patient won the Man Booker Prize and the Governor General's Literary Award for fiction in 1992.

From the book

Every four days she washes his black body, beginning at the destroyed feet. She wets a washcloth and holding it above his ankles squeezes the water onto him, looking up as he murmurs, seeing his smile. Above the shins the burns are worst. Beyond purple. Bone.

She has nursed him for months and she knows the body well, the penis sleeping like a sea horse, the thin tight hips. Hipbones of Christ, she thinks. He is her despairing saint. He lies flat on his back, no pillow, looking up at the foliage painted onto the ceiling, its canopy of branches, and above that, blue sky.


From The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje ©1992. Published by Vintage Canada.

Author interviews

Part of Writers and Company 25th anniversary series 54:29

More from this book

Rick Hansen is the Canadian Paralympian known as the "Man in Motion" for his two-year, round-the-world, wheelchair tour, which raised $26 million for spinal cord research. Based in Richmond, British Columbia, Rick participated in a cross-country relay this past summer to celebrate 25 years of the original Man In Motion World Tour. Rick was reluctant to choose just one great book from the list of Governor General's Literary Award winners, but in the end, he settled on The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje, which was the English-language fiction winner in 1992. 2:46
Novelist Michael Ondaatje reads from his Booker-winning The English Patient, now an Oscar-winning film. This clip was edited for copyright reasons. 35:10

Other books by Michael Ondaatje