Analysis of The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

Title: The English Patient

Author: Michael Ondaatje

Context: The English Patient (1992) is a post colonial novel with unsettling intelligence and ravishing beauty that traces the intersection of damaged lives of four people during the end of World War II at an Italian Villa.

Synopsis: The English Patient is a novel illuminated with heat lightning flashes with the four characters including Kip, the wary sapper and Caravaggio the maimed thief, the exhausted nurse named Hana all of which are haunted by a patient’s riddle. The English patient is a burned and nameless man lying in a room upstairs and whose rescue, betrayal and passion all of which embellish this novel. The author started writing a small conversation between a nurse and a burned patient, little did he know that it would lead to a 300 plus paged novel about 4 characters residing in the mined rooms of a remote Italian villa.

All the four are mostly engaged in night conversation, have met in damaged solitude, with their histories and love revealed in vivid flashes thus becoming an outraged and taut meditation on the idea of prejudice, nationalism and war. With great ease their contemplation slips between the Egyptian desert and Suffolk, explorers and spies, the Women’s College Hospital, Toronto and Punjab, while Kip the sapper slips into defusing the bombs at the bomb craters.

When the novel, The English Patient has been written by the author, an argument was going on about integration and nationalism in Canada between around 1985 and 1992. On issue in the air during that time is that if Sikhs were policemen, then they were disallowed from wearing turbans. His main concerns were rediscovering one’s true or essential individuality, releasing the individual from the imposition of nationalism.

Other works by the Author:


1976 – Coming Through Slaughter

1987 – In the Skin of a Lion

2000 – Anil’s Ghost

2007 – Divisadero

2011 – The Cat’s Table

2018 – Warlight

Poetry Collections

1962 – Social Call, The Love Story, In Search of Happiness

1967 – The Dainty Monsters

1969 – The Man with Seven Toes

1970 – The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems

1973 – Rat Jelly

1978 – Elimination Dance

1979 – There’s a Trick with a Knife I’m Learning to Do: Poems

1984 – Secular Love

1986 – All along the Mazinaw: Two Poems

1986 – Two Poems, Woodland Pattern, Milwaukee

1989 – The Cinnamon Peeler

1998 – Handwriting

2006 – The Story