Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje

The mentor

Published in 2015

Proclaimed by The New York Times as a “mesmerizing” writer who “conjures images that pull strangers into the vivid rooms of his imagination”, Michael Ondaatje (born on 12 September, 1943) is recognized for his evocative narrative and lyrical style. Over nearly five decades, his linguistic prowess has won him international acclaim and numerous literary awards.
 
The multiculturalism reflected in Ondaatje’s works echoes his own life history. Born in Sri Lanka, he moved to England as a young boy before immigrating to Canada, where he attended university, and taught for several years at York University’s Glendon College before writing full time.
 
Ondaatje first made his name as a poet with The Dainty Monsters (1967). In 1970, he received the first of five Governor General’s Awards, for The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. To date, he has published a dozen volumes of verse.
 
Best known as a novelist, Ondaatje often blends documentary and fictional accounts of real characters. Coming Through Slaughter (1976), a portrait of jazz musician Buddy Bolden, was his first novel, followed by In the Skin of a Lion (1987) and, in 1992, The English Patient, for which he became the first Canadian to win the coveted Booker Prize. The best-seller was made into a multi-Oscar-winning film that catapulted him to fame. More recently, his novels have included Anil’s Ghost (2000), winner of France’s Prix Médicis and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, about modern-day Sri Lanka; Divisadero (2007); and The Cat’s Table (2011).
 
Ondaatje is also known for his non-fiction. Running in the Family (1982) is a humorous and heartfelt memoir, while The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002) is about the aesthetics of film editing, as seen by the 2012-2013 Rolex film mentor.
 
Ondaatje has also made two documentaries -- one on the 'concrete poet' bpNichol and one on Toronto's Theatre Passe Muraille. He was one of the editors at Coach House Press, and for several years one of the editors of the literary magazine BRICK. He lives in Toronto, Canada.