Beyond Literary Landscapes—Michael Ondaatje

From my early beginnings as a young introvert, the public library has always been a bit of a refuge.  Years later, not much has changed, albeit with an additional affinity for endless hours spent scouring second-hand bookstores to add to my ever-growing “to-read” pile.

From one bookworm to another, this column will be underscoring and outlining various literary genres, authors, and recent reads and can serve as an introduction for those unfamiliar with these works, as a refresher for long-time aficionados, and maybe as an inspiration for readers to share their own suggested topics.  Do you have a topic that you would like covered in this column?  Feel free to contact me for an interview and a feature in an upcoming column.


This week’s column continues with last week’s focus on Canadian authors, with a review of the works of notable author Michael Ondaatje.

Writer, poet, and essayist Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943, in Colombo, Sri Lanka, before immigrating to Montreal when he was 19-years-old.  He studied at both the University of Toronto for his undergraduate degree, as well as Queen’s University for his graduate studies.


Some notable examples of Ondaatje’s novels include The English Patient, In the Skin of a Lion, Anil’s Ghost, and Warlight.

AU learners who would like to read some of his poetry can consider The Dainty Monsters and There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning to Do: Poems 1973–1978.


Ondaatje’s works take place in a variety of geographical settings, including Toronto, Sri Lanka, England, and Italy.


These texts take place in the 19th, 20th, and 21st-centuries.


These works could be of interest to AU learners who enjoy reading about a wide variety of geographical locations, as varied themes, such as identity, immigration, colonialism, memory, and war.


AU’s wide range of diverse courses make it easy to study this topic in depth.  Courses related to the works of Michael Ondaatje are available in a variety of disciplines, including one’s that may fit into your Degree Works.  (Always check with an AU counsellor to see if these particular courses fulfill your personal graduation requirements!)

AU students interested in learning more about this topic may enroll in ENGL 211: Prose Forms, a junior-level, three-credit course, which considers “American, British, and Canadian short stories and novels, ranging from the nineteenth to the twenty-first century.”  (Please note that although no prerequisites are needed to register in this course, it is recommended to have completed ENGL 255: Introductory Composition prior).

Students may also consider HIST 367: The Second World War, a senior-level, three-credit course, which “is intended to provide a fuller understanding of the events and attitudes of the war years and of some of the arguments that are very much alive today concerning what really happened in that vital decade of 1937 to 1947.”  (Although no prerequisites are required, prior completion of HIST 202: The West from the Enlightenment to the 21st Century and HIST 216: Europe, 1618-1939: From the Thirty Years’ War to the Age of Dictators are very strongly recommended.  Please note that this course is currently temporarily closed).  Happy reading!