Ondaatje's The English Patient and Altered States of Narrative

Beverley Curran, Department of Creativity and Culture, Aichi Shukutoku University in Nagoya, Japan

Post Colonial Literature in English: Canada

This abstract from the CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture appears with the kind permission of Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. Copyright remains of course with the author and CLCWeb

Beverley Curran arguesthat Ondaatje reconfigures in his novel the "romantic" figure of the father/artist as a clandestine lover, a drug addict, or an eccentric translator, all figures with dependencies. In The English Patient, the father or artist's sense of source, continuity, or authority are translated into a narrative which rejects the perverse captivity demanded of the lover and the translator by fidelity or by the tenets of realistic representation. Using sex, drugs, and translation, Ondaatje deranges both time and space to reconfigure the role of the artist as a translator in an attempt to dislocate the "false rhapsody of art" or historical explanation and their authority and relocate the site of the story. Creation is less a preoccupation than contradiction and the consequences of choice in this novel, and instead of the textual strategies of realist narrative to "maintain self-other relations of dominance" to establish authority, Ondaatje applies translation to narrative in the novel so that, at the story's heart there is deferment, for a translation is never definitive.

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Postcolonial Web India OV Canada Michael Ondaatje

Last modified: 12 August 2004