About The Author
A Sri Lankan Burgher by birth and now a Canadian citizen, Michael Ondaatje is the writer most famous for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, later adapted into an Oscar-winning film by Anthony Minghella.
In 1988, he was awarded the Order of Canada and in 1990 was admitted as a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He has worked for many years in an editorial capacity for the Toronto-based independent press, Coach House Books. He is the brother of businessman and author Christopher Ondaatje, benefactor of the Royal Society of Literature Ondaatje Prize.
His first novel, Coming through Slaughter, was published in 1976 and won the Books in Canada First Novel Award. A fictionalised version of the life of New Orleans cornet legend Buddy Bolden, it was notable for what many described as its jazz-influenced style of writing, with extended riffs and unpredictable lurches.
In 1970, he published The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, a collage of prose, poetry, photographs, cuttings and other apparent ephemera that together presented a fictionalised life of the famous outlaw.
He published several books of poetry before In the Skin of a Lion, was released in 1987. Depicting immigrant life in turn-of-the-century Toronto, it was a finalist for the prestigious Governor General's Award.
1992's The English Patient acted as a sequel of sorts, with some characters reappearing. As well as the Booker Prize (shared with Barry Unsworth's Sacred Hunger), it won the Governor General's Award.
Eight years passed before Anil's Ghost, which again won Ondaatje the Governor General's Award, as well as the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize and Canada's biggest literary award, the Giller Prize. Its central character is a Sri Lankan forensic anthropologist who participates in a United Nations investigation of human rights breaches during Sri Lanka's civil war.
Divasadero in 2007 saw Ondaatje take both the Governor General's Award and the Giller Prize again. Two girls, one adopted, are brought up as sisters on a farm in northern California, but a relationship between the adopted child and a hired hand eventually provokes an act of violence that threatens to tear the family apart.
His new novel is The Cat's Table, which was inspired in part by his own move from Sri Lanka to England at the age of eleven (he emigrated to Canada nine years later). Three boys are left largely unsupervised on an ocean liner, the Oronsay, as it undertakes the three week journey to London. Michael and his two new pals find endless ways to get into mischief, but are most intrigued by the prisoner kept below decks, allowed out to for a night-time constitution on the decks. Told in part by by an older Michael reflecting on his youth, the book chronicles the cusp of adulthood when children begin to fully comprehend theconsequences of their actions.
Below is a list of titles by Michael Ondaatje currently in print in the UK. You may find other editions in our 'New and Used' section by typing the author's name into the Search field at the top of this page and selecting the 'Author Exact' filter to the far right of the Search field.