Michael Ondaatje Biography

Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

ph_0111226287-Ondaatje.jpg Michael Ondaatje Published by Salem Press, Inc.

(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 Cohen and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems. During this time, he also...

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Michael Ondaatje Biography (Masterpieces of American Literature)

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.

Michael Ondaatje Biography (Survey of Novels and Novellas)

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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Michael Ondaatje Biography (British and Irish Poetry, Revised Edition)

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 “academic” publications. He was then hired by the Glendon College English Department at York University. During the 1970’s, Ondaatje worked in film and translated some of his work to the stage. He received awards for both poetry and fiction.

When Ondaatje served as a visiting professor at the University of Hawaii in 1981, he met Linda Spalding and separated from his wife. With Linda Spalding, he coedited The Brick Reader (1991). After that he published several volumes of verse, including Secular Love, The Cinnamon Peeler, and Handwriting. It is his fiction, however, that has received the most critical recognition. The novel The English Patient established him as an international literary figure with much the same stature Margaret Atwood enjoys. The novel was adapted into an award-winning film in 1996.

Michael Ondaatje Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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 with the enthusiasm fostered by one of his teachers, led Ondaatje to begin writing.

Ondaatje completed his B.A. at the University of Toronto, where his poetry attracted the attention of established writers. His work was included in an anthology of young writers, and he won the university’s Epstein Prize for poetry. The connections he made in Toronto led to the publication of his first book of poetry, The Dainty Monsters (1967). Ondaatje went on to complete an M.A. at...

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Michael Ondaatje Biography (Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical 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...

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Michael Ondaatje Biography (Great Authors of World Literature, Critical 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...

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Michael Ondaatje Biography (Poetry for Students)

Michael Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), in 1943. Located off the southern tip of India and sometimes called India’s...

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Michael Ondaatje Biography (Poetry for Students)

Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943, in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). After his parents separated in 1948, Ondaatje’s mother...

(The entire section is 378 words.)

Michael Ondaatje Biography (Novels for Students)

Michael Ondaatje Published by Gale Cengage

Poet and novelist Michael Ondaatje is perhaps best-known for his novel The English Patient, which focuses on an international group of...

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