Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
(Phillip) Michael Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then called Ceylon), on September 12, 1943. Ondaatje grew up surrounded by his extended family on an estate in Kegalle owned by his paternal grandfather, a wealthy tea planter. In 1952, four years after his parents’ divorce, Ondaatje moved to England with his mother, sister, and brother to attend Dulwich College, a public school with a strong academic program and a long literary tradition.
At the age of nineteen, Ondaatje followed his brother, Christopher, to Montreal, Canada, then moved to Lennoxville in eastern Quebec, where he attended Bishop’s University, majoring in English and history; it was there that he first began to write. In 1964, Ondaatje married the artist Kim Jones, with whom he has two children, and transferred from Bishop’s University to the University of Toronto, where he earned his B.A. in 1965. That same year he was awarded the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Award, the first of many awards recognizing his work. In 1967, Ondaatje received an M.A. from Queen’s University, published his first collection of poetry, The Dainty Monsters, and began teaching English at the University of Western Ontario.
In 1969, Ondaatje’s second volume of poetry, The Man with Seven Toes, was published, followed a year later by the short critical work Leonard...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of American Literature, Revised Edition)
As a postcolonial author, Michael Ondaatje has risked being misunderstood by compatriots as well as those from other former colonies who have accused him of a preoccupation with technique and aesthetics at the expense of involvement in politics. What is certain, however, is that many of Ondaatje’s novels show that he remains unafraid to explore unapproved versions of history and reveal an increasing ability to merge aesthetics with politics as he describes the ways formerly colonized peoples construct a viable cultural identity of their own.
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Biography (Critical Survey of Long Fiction, Fourth Edition)
Born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), Philip Michael Ondaatje seldom referenced his upbringing in print until his 1982 “fictional memoir,” Running in the Family. Ondaatje describes his early days as a “great childhood,” although his parents divorced when he was two years old and he had little contact with his father. As an adult he completely lost contact with his father.
After moving with his mother and siblings to London at age eleven, Ondaatje completed school at Dulwich College. His writing career began with his move to Canada in 1962 at age nineteen; he attended Bishop’s College in Quebec, and the teachings of Professor Arthur Moyter inspired Ondaatje’s love for literature. In 1964, he married thirty-four-year-old artist Kim Jones, originally the wife of one of his professors, and they had two children. For years, they would spend their summers at Blue Roof Farm near Kingston, entertaining critics, artists, family, and friends. Ondaatje’s sense of humor and fondness for practical jokes became legendary. The couple legally separated in 1980, and Ondaatje then began a relationship with Linda Spalding, whom he met in Hawaii; they subsequently shared a home in Toronto with her two children.
By 1965, Ondaatje had received the Ralph Gustafson Poetry Award, and by 1966 his poems were included in New Wave Canada. He received a B.A. from the University of Toronto (1968) and an M.A. from Queen’s University....
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Biography (Critical Survey of Poetry: British, Irish, & Commonwealth Poets)
Michael Ondaatje was born Philip Michael Ondaatje on a tea plantation in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). Philip Mervyn Ondaatje, his father, was descended from a wealthy family that can be traced back to 1600. By the time Ondaatje was born, however, his father had sold most of the family’s holdings; two years later (1945) his father and mother, Enid Doris Gratiaen, were divorced. His mother went to England and sent him to St. Thomas’s College Boys’ School in Colombo, a school modeled on English boarding schools. By 1952, his mother had earned enough money to bring him to England, where he continued his education at Dulwich College before he immigrated in 1962 to Lennoxville, Quebec, Canada. There he attended Bishop’s University and won the President’s Prize for English. After marrying Betty Jane Kimbark (Kim Jones) in 1964, he transferred to University College, University of Toronto, where he won the Ralph Gustafson Award and received a B.A. degree. While working on his M.A. degree at Queen’s University in Kingston, he had some poems included in New Wave Canada, ananthology, which tied for the E. J. Pratt Medal, and won the Epstein Award.
After receiving his M.A. and publishing The Dainty Monsters, he began teaching at the University of Western Ontario, but despite publishing a critical study of Leonard Cohen and the critically acclaimed The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Ondaatje was fired for lack of...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Philip Michael Ondaatje (on-DAHT-chee) was born in what is now Sri Lanka on September 12, 1943, the son of Philip Mervyn Ondaatje and Enid Gratiaen Ondaatje. His paternal grandparents had a successful tea plantation, and Ondaatje’s memories of his early life there with his large extended family and with his unconventional parents are reflected in his autobiographical work Running in the Family (1982). There he records the power that the beauty of Sri Lanka held over him. He evokes his grandparents’ lives in the tight-knit community of Europeans and describes his father’s losing battle with alcoholism, conveying both the comedy and tragedy of that battle.
Ondaatje’s parents separated when he was five. In 1952, his mother brought Ondaatje and his brother and sister to London, where he continued his early education at Dulwich College. Ondaatje, however, was unwilling to prepare for the O-level mathematics exam required by the English educational system. He was interested only in studying English, and at the age of nineteen he immigrated to Canada, where he joined his brother Christopher in Montreal.
Ondaatje entered Bishop’s University in Lennoxville, Quebec, and majored in English and history. During that time, he began to read twentieth century poetry. He also met contemporary Canadian poets. These influences, combined...
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Biography (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Michael Ondaatje’s artistic interests extend beyond the novel to include poetry and film. The former interest informs his fiction with careful language. Ondaatje is quick to include words for technical elements of viaduct-building or words from Sinhalese, the language of Sri Lanka. His interest in history threads through his work at every level, as he incorporates historical events into his fictional worlds. His concern with film is surely part of his strong consciousness of the look of things—a painting, a sculpture, a rain forest, an old monk—all the vivid pictures which give his work its texture. Finally, Ondaatje’s novels are characterized by his indirection, his use of discontinuous time, and his occasional shifts in point of view. He asks for careful attention from his readers, and he rewards that attention with stories whose power lies not only in character and event but in the pulsing world his art creates.
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Biography (Cyclopedia of World Authors, Fourth Revised Edition)
Philip Michael Ondaatje (on-DAH-jee) is a popular and critically acclaimed Canadian writer. Known for their lyrical prose and unusual blending of genres, his works have been translated into more than a dozen languages throughout the world, won numerous awards and have, in the case of The English Patient, been made into an Academy Award-winning feature film. Ondaatje’s background is almost as unusual and exotic as his prose. The youngest of four siblings, he was born to Philip Mervyn and Enid Gratiaen Ondaatje in the richly diverse culture of Ceylon, an island that he claims, “seduced all of Europe.” An early ancestor, who took the name Ondaatje, arrived there in 1600, stayed, and intermarried. Ondaatje’s grandparents were wealthy planters and socialites in Colombo and Nuwara Eliya, where “[e]veryone was vaguely related and had Sinhalese, Tamil, Dutch, British, and Burgher blood in them going back many generations.” His father managed to squander his money and social position through heavy drinking and gambling. His parents separated in 1948; in 1954 Ondaatje followed his mother, sister, and brother to London. Although he did not return to Ceylon for twenty-five years, two of his most powerful works, Running in the Family and Anil’s Ghost, are based on the social dynamics and political machinations of his native land.
In 1962 he followed his brother to Canada and enrolled at Bishop’s University in Quebec, majoring...
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Michael Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), in 1943. Located off the southern tip of India and sometimes called India’s “teardrop” because of its shape, this small island has been home to much conflict between various religious, ethnic, and political factions. Ondaatje’s family was a member of Ceylon’s wealthy colonial society who distanced themselves as much as possible from the civil strife but often created their own combat in the form of drunkenness and raucous parties. His mother performed part-time as a radical dancer, and his father was an alcoholic tea and rubber plantation superintendent. Eventually, his mother had enough of the father’s drinking and outrageous behavior—he reportedly liked to board trains and run the aisles waving a gun and spouting “revolutionary” slogans—and the couple divorced. When Michael was 11, he moved to London with his mother, and, at 19, he moved to Canada, began his college career, and has lived and worked there ever since.
Ondaatje’s writing career also began when he moved to Canada, and he has produced an abundant amount of work in various genres since then: to date, 13 poetry collections, four novels, numerous screen plays, and dozens of critical articles for literary journals. While his literature and criticism have long been respected and admired by scholars, teachers, fellow writers, and avid readers in general, Ondaatje did not make his debut into worldwide “popular”...
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Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943, in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). After his parents separated in 1948, Ondaatje’s mother took him and two siblings to England, where Ondaatje attended Dulwich College. He was not satisfied with his British education and immigrated to Canada in 1962, at the age of 19, where he lived with his brother in Quebec. He attended Bishop’s University in Lennoxville from 1962 to 1964, where he began to study English literature and write his first works. During this time, he met Kim Jones, wife of poet D. D. Jones, who some say was Ondaatje’s mentor. Kim left her husband and four children in 1964 to marry Ondaatje, and the couple had two children together. The same year, he transferred to the University of Toronto, where he graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1965. He pursued his master’s degree from Queen’s University and graduated from there in 1967.
Also in 1967, Ondaatje began teaching at the University of Western Ontario and published his first book, The Dainty Monsters, a poetry collection. It was not until the publication of his third book, The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970), that Ondaatje received widespread recognition. The unique book combined poetry, prose, drawings, and other selections to bring the legendary American outlaw to life. The book won a Canadian Governor General’s Award, an award that Ondaatje has won several times since. Ondaatje continued to impress...
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Biography (Novels for Students)
Poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje is perhaps best-known for his novel The English Patient, which focuses on an international group of characters isolated together in an abandoned Italian villa at the end of World War II. The novel explores themes of nationhood, identity, and displacement; the exploration of such themes seems to have arisen from Ondaatje's own life experiences. He was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, on September 12, 1943, to parents Philip Mervyn Ondaatje and Doris Gratiaen. Ondaatje's family was what is known as Burgher—a minority but affluent class of people descended from the South Asian island's non-British European colonists. He spent his early childhood in Sri Lanka; after his parents divorced, he moved with his mother and siblings to England. He subsequently moved to Canada, where he attended the University of Toronto, graduating with a bachelor's degree in 1965. His experience of inhabiting several countries throughout his life, and his multi-ethnically influenced childhood, have greatly informed and shaped the themes of his writing.
Ondaatje started his writing career as a poet—in fact, his primary focus as a poet greatly influences the style of his prose. His first collection of poems, Dainty Monsters, was published in 1967. His first work of prose, Coming...
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