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Michael Ondaatje

Academy of Achievement

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Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje

Academy of Achievement

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The brilliant novelist, poet and literary innovator Michael Ondaatje was born on the island nation of Ceylon (now the independent republic of Sri Lanka) to parents of Indian and Dutch descent. When Ondaatje was nine his parents separated, and his mother took him, along with his brother and sister, to England. At 19, Ondaatje immigrated to Canada; he has since become a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje first won recognition as a poet. His collected poems, There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do, won the Governor-General’s Award, Canada’s highest literary prize, in 1979. He moved from poetry to fiction with unconventional books such as The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and Coming Through Slaughter, combining prose and poetry, fact and fiction, text and image. His masterpiece, The English Patient, is an epic romantic tragedy, set in Egypt and Italy during the Second World War. This novel pierced the hearts of readers around the world and received the Booker Prize, the highest literary honor in the British Commonwealth. The 1996 film adaptation received nine Oscars, including the year’s prize for Best Picture.

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