Archive for Michael Ondaatje

At three a.m….

Posted in Writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on January 22, 2014 by Mj Rains

BEDROOM_by_fabienbosAt three a.m. you feel you must leave, but you are unable to find one shoe. You hold the other in your hand, a rose-coloured slipper. I see one half buried near me and pick it up.  The sheen of it.  They are obviously favourite shoes, with the indentation of your toes.  Thank you, you say accepting it, as you leave, not even looking at my face. 

I believe this.  When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant, who imagines or remembers a meeting when the other had passes by innocently…

…all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur. 

~Michael Ondaatje
The English Patient

One of the best books ever!

Click image for artist link.


Book Beginnings – The English Patient

Posted in Book Beginnings with tags , , , , , , , , , on November 21, 2011 by Mj Rains


The Villa

She stands up in the garden where she has been working and looks into the distance. She has sensed a shift in the weather. There is another gust of wind, a buckle of noise in the air, and the tall cypresses sway. She turns and moves uphill towards the house, climbing over a low wall, feeling the first drops of rain on her bare arms. She crosses the loggia and quickly enters the house.

In the kitchen she doesn’t pause but goes through it and climbs the stairs which are in darkness and then continues along the long hall, at the end of which is a wedge of light from an open door.

She turns into the room which is another garden–this one made up of trees and bowers painted over its walls and ceiling.  The man lies on the bed, his body exposed to the breeze, and he turns his head slowly towards her as she enters.

So begins one of the most spellbinding books of all time, The English Patient, by Michael Ondaatje. Since I’m currently reading his latest book (see sidebar at right), I thought I’d feature the beginning of one of my favorite books of all I’ve ever read, and definitely my favorite of Ondaatje’s. This book I’ve devoured at least three times, quite a feat for me, and I was quite obsessed with it in the 90s when it came out. Then, the movie followed…and what a movie…the Oscar’s Best Picture for that year, 1996 I believe. This is one movie that is as good as the book, and the book is as good as the movie, something that rarely happens.  Ralph Fiennes (way before Lord Voldemort, of the Harry Potter film series fame), Juliette Binoche, and Kristen Scott Thomas are so gorgeous in this film and perfectly cast…If you read the book, you can picture them completely as the roles you are reading.

If you’ve read the book, or seen the movie, you’ll know what this last picture is: Almasy’s book of Herodotus, well worn with reading, and stuffed with notes, the haunted journal of one of the most memorable characters ever written…

More books….reading my ass off, people…

Posted in Esoteric with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on September 16, 2010 by Mj Rains

So I fore-go  the unwit-i-fying gravity defying reviews of the following, though I will give a follow up review of the latest, since it is a “read” in progress….

Books read: Read The Hungry Tide a few years back and found it fascinating. This was done equally well. Ah, the historic opium trade….what did I know?

Re-read Amil’s Ghost because I could not remember how it ended….and because I love the indulgence of words from Ondaatje.

Okay, so I’ve fallen into the “what’s the big deal about this book?” for my latest endeavor. It is out of my genre, and complex, yet methodical in the story telling….taking my time and liking it so far. Stieg Larsson died in 2004, just after delivering the manuscript for this book and the two follow-ups already out in publication.  The movie just came out on video and On Demand.

Going to finish reading before taking this one on. Sound cool?….I’ll give an update review later.

In the forest of kings…

Posted in Buried 2 with tags , , , on September 13, 2010 by Mj Rains

….the rest of Buried 2 by Michael Ondaatje…

Buried 2


In the forest of kings
a Dilo Oil tree, a Pig Lily,
a Blue Dawn Bonnet flower

Parrot trees. Pigeon Berries.

Alstonia for the making of matchsticks,
twigs of Moonamal for the cleaning of teeth.
The Ola leaf on which to compose our stanzas of faith

Indigo for eyelids, aerograms / The mid-rib of a coconut palm / to knit a fence
Also Kalka, Churna, Dasamula, Tharalasara….

In the south most violence began over the ownership of trees, boundary lines–the fruit and where it fell
Several murders over one jak fruit tree


For years the President built nothing but clock-towers.

The main causes of death were “extra-judicial execution” and “exemplary killings.”

“A woman said a man pretending to be from the
military make her part with four jak trees in
her garden as a consideration for obtaining the
release of her son arrested some years earlier
during the period of terror.”

–Daily News 15.10.94

The address of torture was off the Galle Road in Koolupitiya

There were goon squads from all sides.

Our archeologists dug down to the disappeared
bodies of schoolchildren


The heat of explosions
sterilized all metal.

Ball bearings and nails
in the arms, in the head.
Shrapnel in the feet.

Ear channels
deformed by shockwaves.
Men without balance
surrounding the dead President
on Armour Street.

Those whose bodies
could be found.


“All those poets as famous as kings”

Hora gamanak yana ganiyak A woman who journeys to a tryst

kanakara nathuva having no jewels,

kaluwan kes kalamba darkness in her hair,

tharu piri ahasa the sky lovely with its stars

What we lost…

Posted in Buried 2 with tags , , , , , , on September 9, 2010 by Mj Rains

If you’ve been following along this week, we’ve noticed my outpouring of the poem Buried 2 by Michael Ondaatje, one of my favorite authors.  The poem is from the book, Handwriting, published in 1999.  It is a historic tale of sorts, and perhaps we have to get our brains into another world, another country (Sri Lanka many centuries earlier…or today) to open ourselves the presence of the words.  Esoteric it may be for some.  I understand.  The section that I present today is my favorite…

Buried 2


What we lost.

The interior love poem
the deeper levels of the self
landscapes of daily life

dates when the abandonment
of certain principles occurred.

The rule of courtesy–how to enter
a temple or forest, how to touch
a master’s feet before lesson or performance.

The art of the drum. The art of eye-painting.
How to cut an arrow. Gestures between lovers.
The pattern of her teeth makes on his skin
drawn by a monk from memory.

The limits of betrayal. The five ways
a lover could mock an ex-lover.

Nine finger and eye gestures
to signal key emotions.

The small boats of solitude.

Lyrics that rose
from love
back into the air

naked with guile
and praise.

Our works and days.

We knew how monsoons
(south-west, north-east)
would govern behaviour

and when to discover
the knowledge of the dead

hidden in clouds,
in rivers, in unbroken rock.

All this we burned or traded for power and wealth
from the eight compass points of vengeance

from the two levels of envy

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