The English Patient Critical Essay

Essay on Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient

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Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient

The limited character in Michael Ondaatje’s novel, The English Patient, was Almásy. Almásy was a man who was burned from head to toe, and whose identity is unrecognizable thus making him a limited character. The novel takes place in a villa where the man was being taken care of by Hana, a young nurse who stayed behind to take care of Almásy while the rest of the nurses escaped to a safer place to stay. She calls him the English patient because of his accent, though she is unaware of where he is from. The entire novel is focused on the history of the English patient, where he tells the story of his past to Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip. Although in the present Almásy is a limited character, the novel…show more content…

Slowly, Hana and Kip fell in love with each other. This was where all three of them learn about the English patient’s past. Until the beginning of the World War II, the English patient explored the North African desert and became an In the year 1936 he met a man named Geoffrey Clifton and his wife Katherine Clifton who both joined him in his exploration of the desert. He slowly begins and affair with Katherine and falls deeply In love with her. The affair ends within two years, and Geoffrey finds out about it. One day, the English patient asked Geoffrey to pick him up with his private plane. Geoffrey took Katherine with him. “ It had been planned as a suicide- murder by her husband that would involve all three of us.” (Page 171) He crashed the plane, only trying to aim for the English patient who was waiting on the ground. He killed himself, and deeply injured Katherine. The English patient took her in a cave where he promised her he would be back. He gets caught by the English Army who thought he is a spy, and is thrown in jail. When he is released, he began working for the German and helped their spies get to Cairo. When he leaves Cairo he finds the cave where he had left Katherine and he puts her dead body in a old plane buried under the sand. While flying the plane, it break’s down and he saves himself by using a parachute, although he was burning. This is when the Bedouin’s find him all burnt. Back to the present, Kip hears

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The Other Questioned: Exoticism and Displacement in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient

Eleanor Ty, Wilfrid Laurier University, Waterloo, Ontario

As early as 1949, before the advent of postcolonial and poststructuralist gender theories, Simone de Beauvoir discussed issues of otherness and what Julia Kristeva would later call a process of “abjection” in the construction of identity.[1] De Beauvoir remarked that while one sets himself up as the essential as opposed to the Other, it was possible for “the other consciousness, the other ego,” to set up “a reciprocal claim,” as when “the native traveling abroad is shocked to find himself in turn regarded as a ‘stranger’ by the natives of neighboring countries.”[2] However, she observed that the reciprocity between the sexes, while entirely possible, was not equal because of socio-economic, political, and historical reasons.

Similarly, when one speaks of racial otherness, reciprocity is possible, but not the practiced norm. Frantz Fanon notes that “in the colonial situation, dynamism is replaced fairly quickly by a substantification of the attitudes of the colonizing power.”[3] In relations between countries of the West, and the Middle and Far East, otherness can become a problem of “orientalism,” or of silencing of the subaltern.[4] In Edward Said’s well-known analysis of orientalism, the orient is viewed as both a repository of knowledge and a site of exoticism, excess, and mystery. Homi Bhabha argues that in order to understand the power of colonial discourse, what needs “to be questioned … is the mode of representation of otherness.”[5] For Bhabha, stereotypes in colonial discourse are linked to the psychic process of individuation. One becomes a subject by projecting and displacing onto an Other (race) the negative, dark, and threatening qualities of oneself. Bhabha argues that the scopic drive, or “pleasure in seeing” plays a large role in one’s formation, and consequently, skin, because it is so visible, becomes the “fetish of colonial discourse.”[6]

In this paper, I study the ways in which the novel and film of The English Patient question racial otherness and the concept of national identity. I argue that otherness is deliberately displaced through characterization, through ideologically disruptive images, through exotic scenery, and through structure. In both the novel and the film, the flashbacks, the shifting points of view, the narrative vignettes produce an unstable subject position for the readers or viewers. As we watch or read the work, we are filled with questions, such as those articulated by the English patient: “But who was the enemy? Who were the allies of this place?” (19).

Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient opens with a white man with black skin, and a “black body.”[7] He is supposedly English, and yet he is not depicted as the subject with power. He is helpless and dependent on others for his survival—on Hana, the Canadian nurse, on the Nomadic Bedouin, on the thief Caravaggio, and on Kip, the Sikh sapper. The uncertainty of the patient’s identity, his Englishness coupled with his non-white appearance, his international entourage, and his exotic encounters in the desert are some of the elements of the novel on which I focus here. They contribute to a sense of dislocation and a questioning of traditional concepts of nation, identity, and race. As Geetha Sahib notes, The English Patient zooms in “on the identity crisis that has taken hold of the contemporary man as a result of the imperialist/native confrontation.”[8] The film, written and directed by Anthony Minghella, has an international cast and crew, and was shot on location in the hills of Italy and the deserts of Tunisia. Though backed by Disney’s Miramax studio, it is visually exotic and has an un-American and un-Hollywood quality about it.

It is not so easy to discern who our fellow travelers are, and who the Other is. Though the focus of the work is on the two love stories set during the Second World War, one important concern is the negotiation of subjecthood in people who are exiles, immigrants, or expatriates, and have only what Salman Rushdie calls “imaginary homelands.”[9] The work can be read as an example of what Donald Pease calls “postnational narration” which struggles “to make visible the incoherence, contingency, and transitoriness of the national narratives and to reveal this paradoxical space.”[10] In the course of the novel, Ondaatje not only critiques imperialism, war, and violence, but also gives us examples of alternative communities, other ways of constituting self and society. It is this vision which gives a ray of light—itself a significant leitmotif in the work—to the otherwise dark, moody, and desperate existence of the various protagonists.

All characters in The English Patient are dislocated and displaced from their origins. They are war-damaged wanderers, twentieth-century versions of Ulysses. One critic argues that Ondaatje creates a “post-apocalyptic” world.[11] At the time the novel takes place, in 1945, which Hana calls “a period of adjustment” (54), each one of them seems more comfortable without home, without possessions, and without traditional kinds of attachments. Hana, for instance, prefers “to be nomadic in the house with her pallet or hammock, sleeping sometimes in the English patient’s room, sometimes in the hall, depending on temperature or wind or light.… Some nights she opened doors and slept in rooms that had walls missing” (13). She takes refuge in the ruined villa and feels safe amidst devastation. Freedom for her means days without routine, without rules, without limits. This state is reflected in the landscape that she has chosen to inhabit: “there seemed little demarcation between house and landscape, between damaged building and the burned and shelled remnants of the earth. To Hana the wild gardens were like further rooms. She worked along the edges of them aware always of unexploded mines” (43). It is with a mixed sense of having survived a traumatic event, as well as an awareness of imminent danger in her semi-enclosed space, that she goes about performing her daily chores. The liminal mode of living mirrors her preference for existence without structures or borders.

The man to whom she is devoted shares her feeling about demarcation and political boundaries. For Almásy, the so-called English patient, national boundaries were immaterial. His happiest moments were during his explorer days when he and friends, “a small clutch of a nation between the wars,” were “mapping and re-exploring” together as an “oasis society” (136). He describes their experience with the Bedouin in the early 1930s: “We were German, English, Hungarian, African—all of us insignificant to them. Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations. We are deformed by nation-states. Madox died because of nations” (138). In his reading of The English Patient as travel literature, Darryl Whetter argues that the desert functions as a body, a “character,” and an “unfinished companion” which encourages a “communal identity.”[12] While the desert is certainly one of the more important elements of the work, it is only one of the things around which Ondaatje suggests alternative communities can be formed. Here, it is the love of maps, of the unknown, of the sand, and of lost worlds that unite men such as Almásy, Bagnold, Madox, and others. As part of the Geographical Society, these explorers reconceive of themselves in ways other than through their national identities. As Almásy says: “All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries. It was a place of faith. We disappeared into landscape. Fire and sand…. Erase the family name! Erase nations! I was taught such things by the desert” (139). Instead of the usual divisions between subject and other, between one nation and the foreigner, in the society, names and origins become unimportant. There is no “national Other” which Pease argues is necessary for “a totalized image of the national community” and for the construction of “national narratives.”[13] Through flashbacks, through his memoirs, and through narrative, Almásy recreates this ideal circle of international men in the novel and in the film. In the film, the markedly different background colors highlight the contrast between the relatively stark and threadbare existence of the present and the sumptuous gaiety of the past. Greys dominate the rooms of the villa while the past is lit by the oranges, yellows, and reds of the desert, the campfire, and the elegant upper-class world in which the Cliftons move.

Of all the characters in the work, the one who has the most reason to feel like an outsider is the sapper, Kirpal Singh. Through Kip, Ondaatje comes closest to writing about the experience of the ethnic other. In the past, Ondaatje has been criticized by other South Asians of writing in a “universal” rather than a distinctly ethnic voice, and for sacrificing his regionality and his background.[14] Kip’s ethnic origin, his Indian identity, is conspicuous, and through him Ondaatje raises issues of race and racial prejudice in a predominantly Western culture. But The English Patient is not what one would classify as an ethnic novel precisely because Ondaatje defuses ideological problems much as Kip does when he deftly disassembles enemy bombs. Kip’s isolation and his dark skin are emphasized several times in the novel. In the white chalk horse of Westbury, Kip is described as “a black figure, the background radicalizing the darkness of his skin, and his khaki uniform” (181). Initially, he feels that his race is a negative factor in England. “Distanced from his family in the Punjab,” Kip was the “only Indian among the applicants” for Lord Suffolk’s experimental bomb squad. During the exam, he sensed that “he would be admitted easily if it were not for his race. He had come from a country where mathematics and mechanics were natural traits” (188). While he becomes one of the best sappers of his time, he is not accepted easily by the other men. People tend to ignore him, and he feels excluded because of his otherness: “It was as much a result of being the anonymous member of another race, a part of the invisible world” (196).

One could say that this dark-skinned man and the English patient are the heroes of the novel. After all, his image is the one chosen by the publisher to grace the cover of a book with a title that paradoxically seems to exclude a character like him. Black and brown skins are images that recur in the novel and figure prominently in the film. The fact that the color of one’s skin is linked to one’s identity is emphasized by association, as in this early description of the English patient: “A man with no face. An ebony pool. All identification consumed in a fire. Parts of his burned body and face had been sprayed with tannic acid, that hardened into a protective shell over his raw skin.… There was nothing to recognize in him” (48).

Similarly, at the British base, the color of the patient’s skin confounds his interrogators: “Everything about him was very English except for the fact that his skin was tarred black, a bogman from history among the interrogating officers” (96). Homi Bhabha has noted that “skin, as the key signifier of cultural and racial difference in the stereotype, is the most visible of fetishes, recognized as ‘common knowledge’ in a range of cultural, political and historical discourses, and plays a public part in the racial drama that is enacted every day in colonial societies.”[15]

In both the novel and the film this highly visible “common knowledge” is deliberately used to confuse the audience. In Minghella’s film, the English patient initially looks like a creature from a horror movie. Later, lying in the bed in Italy, being nursed by the pretty Juliette Binoche, he resembles ET or a bald Sesame Street muppet.[16] Despite films such as Beauty and the Beast, Hollywood audiences are generally not used to identifying with an ugly, deformed figure as a hero. It is thus quite an effort on the part of the audience to imagine the mummy on the sickbed as the sexy, handsome Count in the flashbacks. In using such a figure, Ondaatje is creating a kind of a postcolonial hybrid or mutation. The patient is supposedly English, but appears like a mutation of an Englishman. On this subject, Homi Bhabha has argued that “hybridity is the revaluation of the assumption of colonial identity through the repetition of discriminatory identity effect.” Ondaatje does not use the colonial subject as a hybrid figure, but it is the colonizer, the figure of authority, who becomes the “terrifying, exorbitant object of paranoid classification—a disturbing questioning of the images and presences of authority.”[17]

In his portrayal of Kip, historically the colonial subject, Ondaatje is careful not to create an exotic piece. While Kip’s dark skin and his racial otherness are mentioned several times, they are not what we remember most about him. Ondaatje weaves details about Kip’s appearance with details about his inner character, including his skill as a sapper, his idiosyncrasies and fears, so that his presence in the work becomes as significant as that of the others. Many descriptions of Kip are mediated through Hana, who observes him. Her fascination with and growing attraction for him become a point of contact for the reader, and we become as curious about her as we are about him. This is expressed in the movie in one of the most sensuous scenes, in which Kip undoes his turban and washes his long hair. The director has Juliette Binoche offering him some olive oil, which functions to show her interest in him. It reverses tradition because it is the man who bathes and the woman who gazes, turning her into an active participant.

The sapper’s body and the burned body of the patient, both dark skinned, are juxtaposed in Ondaatje’s novel. He plays with cultural expectations, mostly Western ones, of beauty and ugliness, delight and horror, self and other. Hana “sleeps” with both men, and is in love with both of them in her own way. The triangular love affair of the flashbacks in Cairo is replicated in Italy in an ironic way. Only this time, the younger man, the traditional “other,” emerges as the one with more advantages. There are repetitions enacted with critical differences. At one point, Hana, watching Kip sitting beside the English patient, thinks that the scene is “a reversal of Kim. The young student was now Indian, the wise old teacher English” (111). But in this new configuration, “it was Hana who was the young boy in the story” (111). With this observation, Ondaatje questions both racial and gendered otherness. In Ondaatje’s text, however, there is no central subject. No figure, male or female, white or black, is established as the One. Structured as a series of short vignettes, the novel does not create an Other who would function as a mirror or a negative version of the Self or the One. The white, male subjects are ambiguously depicted; they are either physically scarred or morally dubious, or both. Kip and Hana, who are both “others” in Western culture, are equal in moral and symbolic stature to someone like the English patient and David Caravaggio, with his dubious and eccentric occupation.

In fact, the novel suggests that all characters are parts of one whole and that they are different versions of each other. This theme is one that Ondaatje has highlighted in a previous work featuring both Hana and Caravaggio as incidental characters. In his novel In the Skin of a Lion (1987), one of the epigraphs is a quotation from John Berger: “Never again will a single story be told as though it were the only one.” One character reflects: “His own life was no longer a single story but part of a mural, which was falling together of accomplices. Patrick saw a wondrous night web—all of these fragments of a human order, something ungoverned by the family he was born into or the headlines of the day … the detritus and chaos of the age was realigned.”[18] Seemingly disconnected events and people all share a part of a more intricate pattern. Similarly, such a vision of wholeness is articulated in The English Patient. Describing a painting by Caravaggio called David with the Head of Goliath, the English patient remarks: “It is assumed that the face of David is a portrait of the youthful Caravaggio and the head of Goliath is a portrait of him as an older man, how he looked when he did the painting. Youth judging age at the end of its outstretched hand. The judging of one’s own mortality. I think when I see him at the foot of my bed that Kip is my David” (116). The patient’s observation thus links him directly to the sapper, even though age, nationality, racial origin, and religion separate them. But the analogy also refers to Caravaggio the thief. He, too, is an adventurer and a lover, though he is suspicious of those around him. A “man in middle age who has never become accustomed to families,” Caravaggio has “avoided permanent intimacy” (116). However, there is a hint that, thrown together with the other three in the ruined villa, he will join them in “shedding skins,” in looking “for the truth in others” (117).

Critics such as Geetha Sahib and Lorna Irvine have said much about The English Patient as a critique of power and imperialism. Irvine points out that “the landscapes of the novel frequently bring into play questions about nations.”[19] Less has been said about how the text provides alternative ways of organizing people into non-imperialistic groups or communities. In the last part of my paper, I will show that Ondaatje’s view of self and other is a fluid one, a view not based on formal ties of nation, family, or society, but one which responds to the concerns of the moment, to the necessities of circumstance. In a rather elegiac passage after the death of Katherine, the English patient remarks: “We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves…. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience. All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps” (261).

Many scenes in both the novel and the film enact this communal experience. A number of them have to do with the sharing of food, medicine, and other comforts. Early on in the book and in the film, Hana “unskins the plum with her teeth, withdraws the stone and passes the flesh of the fruit into his mouth” (4). Similarly, the English patient remembers being fed by the Bedouin whom he recognizes only through the taste of saliva: “What country invented such soft dates to be chewed by the man beside him and then passed from that mouth into his” (6). These feedings are depicted as acts of love, as intimate as a kiss, as solemn as the passing of a communion cup. At one point, upon receiving the plum in his mouth, the patient “looks as if he will cry from this pleasure” (45). It is a sensual and a spiritual giving and receiving between two people who may or may not be on the same side of the war, who may or may not see each other after that time. Significantly, both Hana and the Bedouin who rescue the patient are portrayed as angels. To the English patient, the Bedouin who carried hundreds of small bottles on different lengths of string and wire “resembled most of all those drawings of archangels he had tried to copy as a schoolboy” (9). Even nature seems to cooperate in the healing process: “A wave of glass, an archangel, all the ointments within the bottles warmed from the sun, so when they were rubbed onto skin they seemed to have been heated especially for a wound” (9). Hana is likened to angels in the mind of Kip. Feeling her weight on him, Kip remembers remaining still, “the way he had relied on statues during those months when they moved up the coast fighting into and beyond each fortress town” (104). As he sleeps beside Hana, he thinks of the stone statues, “a grieving angel whose thigh was a woman’s perfect thigh, whose line and shadow appeared so soft” (104).[20] Through Kip’s memories of Hana, and the narrative which relies on association, Hana becomes as pure and as beautiful as the figure of the Virgin Mary rescued from destruction. Hana, too, has “a face which in the darkness looked more like someone he knew. A sister. Someday a daughter” (80). In Ondaatje’s postcolonial and postnational world strangers, who come from different places in the world, such as these characters, seem like family.

While there are those who rescue people and act like angels, there are many others who destroy. The English Patient contains several incidents which remind us that, after all, the book is set during the Second World War. At twenty years old, Hana has experienced enough of death and loss that, at one point, she feels virtually no desire for ordinary domestic ties, for romance, for passion, or for mothering. She explains: “You felt you could be shot anytime there, not just if you were a soldier, but a priest or nurse. It was a rabbit warren, those narrow tilted streets. Soldiers were coming in with just bits of their bodies, falling in love with me for an hour and then dying” (83). In the film, the arbitrariness and horror of war are illustrated when the nurse to whom Hana loans money is blown up in front of her in the convoy. Youth and energy are in a moment wasted for no reason. Perhaps the most painful and gruesome scene is the cutting off of Caravaggio’s thumbs. This incident of cruelty is particularly ironic in the film because it is a German nurse who becomes the unwilling instrument of sadistic torture. The lighting which forms a halo around her head and her white uniform remind us of Hana, but instead of bringing comfort, she brings unimaginable blight. Caravaggio is permanently damaged by the event: it “had produced age” in him, “as if during the one night when he was locked to that table they had poured a solution into him that slowed him” (59).

On the whole, however, for a work set during the war, The English Patient portrays a remarkable number of scenes of bonding and communion. Characters who are thrown together because of war salvage what pleasure they can find out of their makeshift existence. Families in the non-traditional sense are created. For instance, in Devon, Kip is befriended by Lord Suffolk and Miss Morden. Kip feels surprised that the “man who had not even spoken to him … walked across the room and put his arm around his shoulder” (188–89). Lord Suffolk and Miss Morden treat him as their own: “He stepped into a family, after a year abroad, as if he were the prodigal returned, offered a chair at the table, embraced with conversations” (189). It is this kind of transnational and postcolonial relationship that balances and mitigates the cruel acts of imperialism and war. Kip returns such kindness when he befriends the three Westerners in the villa. In a gesture that is reminiscent of the act of compassion and love performed by Hana and the Bedouin, Kip shares his precious condensed milk with the English patient. Hana sees “Kip and the English patient passing a can of condensed milk back and forth. The Englishman sucks at the can, then moves the tin away from his face to chew the thick fluid” (176). Symbolically, it is the sharing of sweetened milk that brings to mind their similarity and dislocation. Just as condensed milk has become a kind of international food, so they share an existence in a kind of borderless, nationless state.

In another scene, the sapper makes his friends at the villa a sumptuous dinner in honor of Hana’s birthday and to “celebrate the age as well” (267). This partaking of food and expensive wine is important because it, too, represents a moment of communion and light at a time of darkness. Significantly, what Kip uses as light suggests a creative rejuvenation of what is usually considered lifeless material. Kip has filled forty-five snail shells with oil to form what looked “like a string of small electric candles” (267). After the many personal stories of themselves, Hana is encouraged to sing the “Marseillaise” and she does so “up into darkness beyond their snail light, beyond the square of light from the English patient’s room and into the dark sky waving with shadows of cypress” (269). The singing which rises upwards into the dark suggests hope and goodness in the midst of uncertainty and evil. Once again the scene suggests a kind of postnational alternative and tribute to collective goodness. Hana does not sing her own country’s national anthem, but the one from France, echoing the hopes and aspirations of the Allies. The song, echoed silently by the sapper, is both a hymn to beauty and purity, and an affirmation of life. It is a “snail light,” assuring us that even small creatures can be useful and make a difference.

In Minghella’s version, the scene that replicates the united spirit and rejuvenation of this dinner is the half-comical dance in the rain toward the end. In a rather mischievous and daring moment, Hana arranges for the English patient to feel the rain, because he longs to do so. Carrying umbrellas, and parodying the carefree attitude of “Singin’ in the Rain,” they run around the courtyard of the villa with the patient on a stretcher. The dance is a collective effort, rather awkwardly performed, but refreshing in its spontaneity and silliness. In their own way, this haphazard community of international orphans celebrate life in a moment of hilarity. It is a reprieve from the violence, senselessness, and brutality of war. In the rain, they become happy like children, without the baggage of nation and identity to encumber them.

Such are the ways in which the novel and film The English Patient attempt both to enact and represent a series of postnational, borderless societies. By portraying an existence outside of traditional forms of family, class, and nation; by depicting scenes of communion between strangers; by revealing human kindness which crosses boundaries of color, Ondaatje suggests that other kinds of social structures are possible. The novel circumvents issues of selfhood and identity through plot, narrative, and structure. Using images that disrupt conventional notions of white and black, beauty and ugliness, self and other, Ondaatje avoids the tendency to project undesirable and abject qualities upon those we do not know. Though the structure based on a network of relationships is less successful in the film, it does capture the exoticization of landscape which plays a part in deflecting notions of strangeness and otherness into objects and places rather than specific individuals or cultures. Rather than exoticizing racial others, the text projects the exotic onto the landscape. The desert, the villa in Tuscany, even the contours of one’s body, become the exotic, unfamiliar territory. The text invites us to explore not only history and geographical wonders but also details of the human body, such as the bone in one’s neck or the “hollow” of a woman’s throat (241).[21] The pleasures and the fears of otherness are thus displaced not onto people, but locations. The description of the winds and dust storms (16–17) and the long, loving shots of the rolling red-hued sand serve to satisfy the desire for what Graham Huggan calls “a pseudonostalgic longing for a time and place other than one’s own.”[22]


[1] Julia Kristeva, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).
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[2] Simone de Beauvoir, The Second Sex (New York: Vintage, 1989) xxiii.
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[3] Frantz Fanon, “On National Culture,” Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory: A Reader, ed. Patrick Williams & Laura Chrisman (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994) 45.
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[4] See Edward Said, Orientalism (New York: Random House, 1978) and Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, “Can the Subaltern Speak?” Colonial Discourse and Post-Colonial Theory 66–111.
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[5] Homi K. Bhabha, “The Other Question: Stereotype, Discrimination, and the Discourse of Colonialism,” The Location of Culture (New York: Routledge, 1994) 68. Bhabha’s emphasis.
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[6] Bhabha, “The Other Question” 78.
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[7] Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient (Toronto: Vintage, 1992) 3. All subsequent references are to this edition and appear in the text in parenthesis.
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[8] Geetha Ganapathy-Dore Sahib, “The Novel of the Nowhere Man: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient,” Commonwealth Essay and Studies 16.2 (1993): 96.
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[9] Salman Rushdie, Imaginary Homelands: Essays and Criticism 1981–1991 (London: Granta, 1991) 10.
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[10] Donald Pease, “National Narratives, Postnational Narration,” Modern Fiction Studies 43.1 (Spring 1997): 7.
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[11] Joseph Pesch, “Post-Apocalyptic War Histories: Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient,ARIEL 28.2 (April 1997): 117–39.
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[12] Darryl Whetter, “Michael Ondaatje’s ‘International Bastards’ and their ‘Best Selves’: An Analysis of The English Patient as Travel Literature,” English Studies in Canada 23.4 (December 1997): 446–47.
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[13] Pease 5.
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[14] See, for instance, Chelva Kanaganayakam, “A Trick with a Glass: Michael Ondaatje’s South Asian Connection,” Canadian Literature 132 (1992): 33–42, and Arun P. Mukherjee, “The Poetry of Michael Ondaatje and Cyril Dabydeen: Two Responses to Otherness,” Journal of Commonwealth Literature 20.1 (1985): 49–67.
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[15] Bhabha, “The Other Question,” Location of Culture 78.
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[16] Judy Gerstel, “Doctoring the Patient,” The Toronto Star, Nov. 8, 1996: D4. Muppet Studios is credited with production, so the comparison is not accidental.
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[17] Homi Bhabha, “Signs Taken for Wonders,” Location of Culture 112, 113.
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[18] Michael Ondaatje, In the Skin of a Lion: A Novel (Toronto: McClelland and Stewart, 1987) 145.
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[19] Lorna Irvine, “Displacing the White Man’s Burden in Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient,” British Journal of Canadian Studies 10.1 (1995): 143–44.
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[20] Lorna Irvine makes a similar point about Hana’s association with the statue of the Virgin Mary because of light imagery. See “Displacing the White Man’s Burden” 141.
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[21] Darryl Whetter notes that The English Patient not only treats “the landscape as a body,” but also “the desert as a particular body (that is, a character) eager to reveal its unique characteristics.” Almásy’s body is “frequently conflated with landscapes,” particularly a “desert landscape.” See Whetter 446.
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[22] Graham Huggan, “Exoticism and Ethnicity in Michael Ondaatje’s Running in the Family,” Writing Ethnicity: Cross-Cultural Consciousness in Canadian and Québécois Literature, ed. Winfried Siemerling (Toronto: ECW Press, 1996) 123. Huggan argues that exoticism is linked to ethnicity and that in Running in the Family, exoticism “allows Ondaatje to confront his condition of alienation, it also gives him insight into his divided cultural allegiances” (123).
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