Michael Ondaatje at Tulane 2010

Michael Ondaatje at Tulane University, 2010. Licensed under Creative Commons, courtesy Tulane Public Relations.

Michael Ondaatje
Born Philip Michael Ondaatje
October 12 1943 (1943-10-12) (age 76)
Colombo, Ceylon
Occupation Author
Language English
Ethnicity Sri Lankan-Canadian
Citizenship Canada Canadian
Alma mater University of Toronto
Queen's University
Notable work(s) The English Patient, Running in the Family
Notable award(s) Governor General's Award, Booker Prize, Giller Prize
Spouse(s) Linda Spalding

Philip Michael Ondaatje QC (born September 12, 1943) is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian poet and novelist. He is perhaps best known for his Booker Prize-winning novel, The English Patient, which was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film.


Ondaatje was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1943 and moved to England in 1954. He attended Dulwich College (Alma Mater of literary luminaries such as P.G. Wodehouse and Raymond Chandler).[1] After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. He studied for a time at Bishop's College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto, where he received a B.A. from the University of Toronto and an M.A. from Queen's University, Kingston, Ontario.

He then began teaching at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario. In 1970, he settled in Toronto and, from 1971 to 1990, taught English Literature there at York University and Glendon College.

Ondaatje's work includes fiction, autobiography, poetry and film. He has published 13 books of poetry. Running in the Family (1982) is a semi-fictional memoir of his Sri Lankan childhood. The English Patient can be considered a sequel to In the Skin of a Lion (1987), a fictional story about early immigrant settlers in Toronto. Coming Through Slaughter, is a fictional story of New Orleans, Louisiana, circa 1900 loosely based on the lives of jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden and photographer E.J. Bellocq. The Collected Works of Billy the Kid, Coming Through Slaughter and Divisadero have been adapted for the stage and produced in numerous theatrical productions across North America and Europe.

Ondaatje's three films include a documentary on fellow poet bpNichol, Sons of Captain Poetry, and The Clinton Special: A Film About The Farm Show, which chronicles a collaborative theatre experience led in 1971 by Paul Thompson of Theatre Passe Muraille. In 2002, Ondaatje published a non-fiction book, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, which won special recognition at the 2003 American Cinema Editors Awards, as well as a Kraszna-Krausz Book Award for best book of the year on the moving image.

Since the 1960s, Ondaatje has been involved with Toronto's Coach House Books, supporting the independent small press by working as a poetry editor. Ondaatje and his wife, novelist and academic Linda Spalding, co-edit Brick: A literary journal, with Michael Redhill, Michael Helm, and Esta Spalding.

Ondaatje has 2 children. He is the brother of philanthropist, businessman and author Christopher Ondaatje. Ondaatje's nephew David is a film director and screenwriter who made the 2009 film The Lodger.[2]


The English Patient (6 9) Movie CLIP - Cathedral Paintings (1996) HD

The English Patient (6 9) Movie CLIP - Cathedral Paintings (1996) HD

Ondaatje twice won the Governor General's Award for poetry, for The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) and for There's a Trick With a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems 1973-1978 (1979).

Coming through Slaughter won the 1976 Books in Canada First Novel Award.

In the Skin of a Lion, a fictional story about early immigrant settlers in Toronto, won the 1988 City of Toronto Book Award, finalist for the 1987 Ritz Paris Hemingway Award for best novel of the year in English, and winner of the first Canada Reads competition in 2002.

In 1988, Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and 2 years later a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Anil's Ghost was winner of the 2000 Giller Prize, the Prix Medicis, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the 2001 Irish Times International Fiction Prize and Canada's Governor General's Award for fiction.

The English Patient won the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Governor General's Award for English language fiction. The novel was later made into a motion picture, which won the Academy Award for Best Picture.

Divisadero won the 2007 Governor General's Award for English language fiction.


Poetry Edit

  • "Social Call," "The Love Story," "In Search of Happiness." in The Mitre Lennoxville: Bishops University Press, 1962.[3]
  • The Dainty Monsters. Toronto: Coach House , 1967.
  • the man with seven toes. Toronto: Coach House, 1969.
  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-handed poems. Toronto: Anansi, 1970; New York: Berkely, 1975; Vintage International, 1996.
    • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid. London: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2004.
  • Rat Jelly. Toronto: Coach House Press, 1973.
  • Elimination Dance/La danse eliminatoire. Ilderton, ON: Nairn Coldstream, 1978.
    • revised edition, London, ON: Brick, 1980.[3]
  • Claude Glass. Toronto: Coach House, 1979.
  • There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do: Poems, 1963-1978. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1979; New York: Norton, 1979.
    • published as Rat Jelly, and other poems, 1963-1978. London: Marion Boyars, 1980.[3]
  • Tin Roof. Lantzville, BC: Island Writing Series, 1982.
  • Secular LoveToronto: Coach House, 1984; New York: Norton, 1985.
  • Two Poems. Mt. Horeb: Perishable Press, 1986.
  • All along the Mazinaw: Two poems (broadside), Milwaukee, WI: Woodland Pattern, 1986.[3]
  • The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected poems. New York: Knopf, 1991; London: Pan, 1991; New York: Vintage, 1997.
  • Handwriting: Poems. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1998. New York: Knopf, 1999.
  • The Story. Toronto: Anansi, 2005.


  • Coming Through Slaughter . Toronto: Anansi, 1976; New York: Norton, 1977[3]; New York: Vintage International, 1996.
  • In the Skin of a Lion. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1987; New York: Knopf, 1987; New York: Penguin Books, 1988.
  • The English Patient. Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1992; New York: Knopf, 1992; New York: Vintage Books, 1993; New York: Random House, 1996.
  • Anil's Ghost. Toronto: McCelland & Stewart, 2000.
  • Divisadero. New York: Knopf, 2007.


  • Leonard Cohen (literary criticism). . Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1970.
  • "Garcia Marquez and the Bus to Aracataca," in Figures in a Ground (edited by Diane Bessai & David Jackel). Saskatoon, SK: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1978.
  • Claude Glass (literary criticism). Toronto: Coach House, 1979.[3]
  • Running in the Family (memoir). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1982; New York: Norton, 1982; New York: Penguin, 1984; New York: Vintage International, 1993.


  • The Broken Ark: A book of beasts (animal poems). Ottawa: Oberon Press, 1971.
    • revised as A Book of Beasts, 1979[3]
  • Personal Fictions: Stories by Munro, Wiebe, Thomas & Blaise (selected by Ondaatje). Toronto: Oxford University Press, 1977.
  • The Long Poem Anthology. Toronto: Coach House, 1979.
  • Brushes with Greatness: An anthology of chance encounters with greatness (with Russell Banks & David Young). Toronto: Coach House, 1989.[3]
  • From Ink Lake: An anthology of Canadian short stories. New York: Viking, 1990.
  • The Faber Book of Contemporary Canadian Short Stories. London: Faber, 1990.[3]
  • The Brick Reader (edited by Linda Spalding & Michael Ondaatje, illustrated by David Bolduc). Toronto: Coach House, 1991.
  • An H in the Heart: A reader (selected by George Bowering & Michael Ondaatje). Toronto: McClelland & Stewart, 1994.
  • Lost Classics (edited by Michael Ondaatje, Michael Redhill, Esta Spalding, & Linda Spalding). Toronto: Knopf Canada 2000; New York: Anchor, 2001.
  • Mavis Gallant: Paris stories (edited and introduction). New York: New York Review Books, 2002.[3]

Except where noted, bibliographical information courtesy Athabasca University.[4].


  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (play based on his poetry; first produced in Stratford, Ontario, 1973; produced in New York, 1974; produced in London, England, 1984.[3]
  • 1980: Coming through Slaughter (play based on his novel), first produced in Toronto, 1980.[3]

Audio / videoEdit

Michael Ondaatje reading The Cinnamon Peeler

Michael Ondaatje reading The Cinnamon Peeler

"The Time Around Scars" by Michael Ondaatje (read by Tom O'Bedlam)

"The Time Around Scars" by Michael Ondaatje (read by Tom O'Bedlam)


  • Sons of Captain Poetry. Toronto: Mongrel Films / Canadian Film-Makers' Distribution Centre, 1970. 35 min.
  • Carry on Crime and Punishment. Toronto: Mongrel Films / Canadian Film-Makers' Distribution Centre, 1972. 5 min.
  • The Clinton Special. Toronto: Mongrel Films / Canadian Film-Makers' Distribution Centre, 1972. 71 min.
  • The English Patient (film directed by Anthony Minghella), 1996 (screenplay by Minghella based on novel by Ondaatje).

Except where noted, a/v information courtesy Athabasca University.[4]

See alsoEdit



  2. Village Voice
  3. 3.00 3.01 3.02 3.03 3.04 3.05 3.06 3.07 3.08 3.09 3.10 3.11 Michael Ondaatje 1943- , Poetry Foundation, Web, accessed 7 May 2008.
  4. 4.0 4.1 Bibliography of Works by Michael Ondaatje, English-Canadian Writers, Faculty of Humanities & Social Sciences, Athabasca University, Web, July 2, 2012.

External linksEdit

Audio / video
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