Michael Ondaatje

Literary Birthday – 12 September – Michael Ondaatje

Happy Birthday, Michael Ondaatje, born 12 September 1943.


  1. One of the things I do with my books is I write them and improvise when I’m actually writing that first draft and discovering what the plot is. But later on, I spend a lot of time rewriting, reshaping the book, and underlining that architecture.
  2. A writer uses a pen instead of a scalpel or blow torch.
  3. It’s why you create characters: so you can argue with yourself.
  4. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross.
  5. I don’t see novels ending with any real sense of closure.
  6. It doubles your perception, to write from the point of view of someone you’re not.
  7. As a writer, one is busy with archaeology.
  8. The first sentence of every novel should be: Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human. Meander if you want to get to town.
  9. I think precision in writing goes hand in hand with not trying to say everything. You try and say two-thirds, so the reader will involve himself or herself.
  10. I am completely exhausted by a book, and I have to take a major break and change my vocabulary.

Michael Ondaatje is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet. He won the Booker Prize for his novel The English Patient, which was adapted into a film. He is married to novelist, Linda Spalding.

Source for image


Tulane Public Relations, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

 by Amanda Patterson

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Posted on: 12th September 2013