A look at Michael Ondaatje ahead of Sunday's Golden Man Booker Prize
Michael Ondaatje arrives for the Giller Prize awards after being nominated for his book The Cat's Table in Toronto on Tuesday, November 8, 2011. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Chris Young
TORONTO -- Twenty-five years after its much-celebrated release, Canadian author Michael Ondaatje's novel "The English Patient" could net yet another honour this weekend.
The historical romance is among five finalists for Sunday's Golden Man Booker Prize in London.
The one-off honour celebrates the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize, which Ondaatje won in 1992 for "The English Patient."
The other finalists are Britain's Hilary Mantel for "Wolf Hall"; American author George Saunders with "Lincoln in the Bardo"; "In a Free State" by Trinidad-born V.S. Naipaul; and "Moon Tiger" by Britain's Penelope Lively.
Here are five things to know about Ondaatje, who lives in Toronto:
Born in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje moved to England in the early 1950s and came to Canada in 1962. While he's lived here ever since, he's reflected on his native country in books including 2011's "The Cat's Table," about a young boy who journeys from Sri Lanka to England on an ocean liner in the early 1950s. In his 2000 novel "Anil's Ghost," a forensic anthropologist returns to her native Sri Lanka to investigate suspected mass political murders amid a civil war.
After studying at the University of Toronto and Queen's University in Kingston, Ont., Ondaatje got his start as a professor. His writing career took off with a number of poetry collections and his 1970 poetry-prose book "The Collected Works of Billy the Kid," which earned him his first of several Governor General's Literary Awards. Ondaatje's debut novel, 1976's "Coming Through Slaughter," is a fictional account of the life of jazz musician Buddy Bolden.
"The English Patient" novel:
Set in Italy at the end of the Second World War, "The English Patient" has four main characters, including a Canadian military nurse who tends to a badly burned man. Ondaatje became the first Canadian to win the Booker Prize for Commonwealth Literature for the novel, sharing it with British author Barry Unsworth. The novel also won a Governor General's Literary Award.
"The English Patient" film:
In 1996, an acclaimed American film adaptation of the war romance hit theatres with an A-list cast including Ralph Fiennes, Kristin Scott Thomas and Juliette Binoche. Anthony Minghella directed and wrote the screenplay for the drama, which won nine Oscars, including best picture. The film's heavy tone served as comedic fodder for a "Seinfeld" episode in which Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) goes against the tide of popular opinion and declares she hates the film.
Ondaatje has had a diverse career that's earned him a plethora of honours, which also include the Scotiabank Giller Prize and distinction as an Officer of the Order of Canada. His fifth Governor General's Literary Award was for the 2007 novel "Divisadero," which he later adapted into a stage play with director Daniel Brooks. His latest novel is "Warlight," which was released in May and follows two siblings separated from their parents in London in 1945.