The English Patient Questions and Answers
by Michael Ondaatje

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What would you say, characterizes the construction of The English Patient?

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What is so fascinating about the structure of this novel is the way that the perspective and the narrative captures the points of view of many characters and is non-linear. The story is made up of many different fragments, if you like, of stories that are told and retold and that are not chronological or related directly to each other as the memories of the four main characters are explored. These different stories and flashbacks are interspersed with the main story, which is that of Caravaggio's discovering the true identity of the English patient and the romance between Hana and Kip.  

Structurally, the book is in many ways paralleled by Almazy's copy of The Histories by Herodotus, which contains various jottings and clippings pasted in by the owner. Note how this book is first presented:

It is the book he brought with him through the fire--a copy of The Histories by Herodotus that he has added to, cutting and gluing in pages from other books or writing in his own observations--so they all are cradled within the text of Herodotus.

He has added his own stories and memories to the original tales, creating his own collage-like narrative, that effectively mirrors the various stories that Ondaatje has welded together in one whole to capture the voices of many different characters. This allows history to be considered from many different perspectives rather than allowing just one character's view to dominate.

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