Michael Ondaatje

(* 1943)

Michael OndaatjeBiographical Sketch

Philip Michael Ondaatje (born Colombo, Sri Lanka, September 12, 1943), OC, is an awardwinning Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet. His work includes fiction, autobiography, poetry and film.

Ondaatje has published 13 books of poetry, and won the Governor General’s Award for The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1970) and There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do: Poems 1973-1978 (1979). In 1988, Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada (OC) and two years later a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Ondaatje also serves on the board of trustees of the Griffin Trust for Excellence in Poetry, which administers the Griffin Poetry Prize, Canada’s most generous poetry award. His novel Anil’s Ghost was the winner of the 2000 Giller Prize, the Prix Médicis, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, the 2001 Irish Times International Fiction Prize and Canada’s Governor General’s Award. The English Patient won the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Governor General’s Award and was later made into a motion picture, which in turn won the Academy Award for Best Picture. In the Skin of a Lion, a fictional story about early immigrant settlers in Toronto, was the winner of 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. 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. It was the winner of the 1976 Books in Canada First Novel Award. Divisadero won the 2007 Governor General’s Award. Running in the Family (1982) is a semi-fictional memoir of his Sri Lankan childhood.

Read more about Michael Ondaatje on Wikipedia.


Major Awards and Honors

Man Booker Prize (Great Britain)
  • 1992: “The English Patient”
    – Tied with Barry Unsworth’s “Sacred Hunger.”
Order of Canada
  • 1988: Officer of the Order
Governor General’s Awards
  • 1992: Best Fiction – “The English Patient”
  • 2000: Best Fiction – “Anil’s Ghost”
  • 2007: Best Fiction – “Divisadero”
Scotiabank Giller Prize (Canada)
  • 2000: “Anil’s Ghost”
Canada Reads
  • 2002: “In the Skin of a Lion”
Books in Canada
  • 1977: First Novel Award – “Coming Through Slaughter”
    – Tied with Ian McLachlan’s “Seventh Hexagram.”
American Academy of Arts and Letters
  • 1990: Foreign Honorary Member
Irish Times Literature Prizes
  • 2001: International Fiction Prize – “Anil’s Ghost”
Prix Médicis Étranger (France)
  • 2000: “Anil’s Ghost”
Premio Grinzane Cavour (Italy)
  • 1996: Best Foreign Fiction – “Coming Through Slaughter”



Novels and Short Fiction
  • Coming Through Slaughter (1976)
  • In the Skin of a Lion (1987)
  • The English Patient (1992)
  • Anil’s Ghost (2000)
  • Divisadero (2007)
  • The Cat’s Table (2011)
  • Warlight (2018)
  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid (1973)
    – Based on his poetry.
  • Coming through Slaughter (1980)
    – Based on his novel.
  • In the Skin of a Lion (1987)
    – Based on his novel.
  • Social Call, The Love Story, In Search of Happiness (1962)
  • The Dainty Monsters (1967)
  • The Man with Seven Toes (1969)
  • The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-handed Poems (1970)
  • The Broken Ark: Animal verse (1971)
    – Editor; revised in 1979 as A Book of Beasts.
  • Rat Jelly (1973)
  • Elimination Dance/La danse eliminatoire (1978)
  • There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do: Poems, 1962 – 1978 (1979)
    – A/K/A Rat Jelly and Other Poems, 1963 – 1978
  • The Long Poem Anthology (1979)
    – Editor.
  • Tin Roof (1982)
  • Secular Love (1984)
  • All along the Mazinaw: Two Poems (1986)
    – Broadside.
  • Two Poems (1986)
  • The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems (1989)
  • An H in the Heart: A Reader (1994)
    – Coeditor with B.P. Nichol and George Bowering.
  • Handwriting (1998)
  • The Story (2006)
    – With watercolor illustrations by David Bolduc.
Collections and Anthologies
  • Personal Fictions (1977)
    – Collection of short stories; editor.
  • Brushes with Greatness: An Anthology of Chance Encounters with Greatness (1989)
    – Coeditor with Russell Banks and David Young.
  • The Brick Anthology (1989)
    – Coeditor with Linda Spalding, illustrated by David Bolduc.
  • From Ink Lake: An Anthology of Canadian Short Stories (1990)
    – Editor.
  • The Faber Book of Contemporary Canadian Short Stories (1990)
    – Editor.
  • Lost Classics : Writers on Books Loved and Lost, Overlooked, Under-read, Unavailable, Stolen, Extinct, or Otherwise Out of Commission (2000)
    – Contributor and coeditor with Michael Redhill, Esta Spalding and Linda Spalding.
  • Films by Michael Ondaatje (2002
  • Vintage Ondaatje (2004)
  • Running in the Family (1982)
  • Leonard Cohen (1970)
    – Literary criticism.
  • Claude Glass (1979)
    – Literary criticism.
  • The English Patient: A Screenplay (1996)
    – Introduction.
  • The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film (2002)


A Selection of Quotes

The English Patient

“I believe in such cartography – to be marked by nature, not just label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. … All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.”

Find more quotes by Michael Ondaatje on Goodreads.