Jumat, 18 November 2011

Loving and Learning

English Patient Everymans Classics Contemporary

English Patient Everymans Classics Contemporary

It's hard to believe Ondaatje wasn't inspired, above all else, by "Wuthering Heights," especially in his characterization of a Katherine and Almasy whose obsession with love as possession is a latter-day equivalent of the undifferentiated passion of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. And Ondaatje's related but contrasting pair of lovers, Hana and Kip, appear to occupy a place comparable with Bronte's Cathy Linton and Hareton, whose recognition of each other's separateness at least holds forth the promise of a relationship between two individuals.

But Ondaatje surprises us. His Kip and Hana finally retreat to the boundaries of nationality, race, and past traditions, reclaiming for themselves as much identity as such markers are capable of offering. In "The English Patient" Almasy plays both the roles of Heathcliff and Hareton. It is the latter who is redeemed from the primitive through the books Cathy finally shares with him, teaching him to separate himself from the primeval natural principle and to love. Almasy learns much the same from his Kathy, who shows him the true meaning of Herodotus, of history, of words themselves. He learns he cannot remain a free agent, avoiding responsibility and "ownership," because without incurring debts to another person, agency is pointless and freedom is an illusion. Almasy must lose his fabricated identity--symbolized by the "features," or mere markers, of history, the desert, and the physical body--in order to gain his soul, which turns out to be Kathy.

When Almasy makes good on his promise and returns to the cave, the necrophilia scene (as subtle as any in all literature--compare its obvious counterpart in "Wuthering Heights") is an electric and electrifying intercourse of tongues, an exchange of lying words for a shared language. Kathy's sacrifice in taking into herself the old words of Almasy is her answer to his own sacrifice, an exorcism of the qualified, secretive language Almasy had formerly insisted on calling love. With that act Almasy is transformed from "demon lover" to lover, from a desert nomad and recorder of landmarks to co-author of and mutual participant in a new "text," an authentic discourse of love between two independent people who ultimately relate as one.

To those who distrust the story's representations of history, remember that the story itself questions all such representations. Which is not to say it's a "romance." It's a love story--above all, a love "history," and as such it rings as true as any history since Emily Bronte's.

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14 komentar:

  1. By A Customer

    BalasHapus
  2. It's hard to believe Ondaatje wasn't inspired, above all else, by "Wuthering Heights," especially in his characterization of a Katherine and Almasy whose obsession with love as possession is a latter-day equivalent of the undifferentiated passion of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. And Ondaatje's related but contrasting pair of lovers, Hana and Kip, appear to occupy a place comparable with Bronte's Cathy Linton and Hareton, whose recognition of each other's separateness at least holds forth the promise of a relationship between two individuals.

    But Ondaatje surprises us. His Kip and Hana finally retreat to the boundaries of nationality, race, and past traditions, reclaiming for themselves as much identity as such markers are capable of offering. In "The English Patient" Almasy plays both the roles of Heathcliff and Hareton. It is the latter who is redeemed from the primitive through the books Cathy finally shares with him, teaching him to separate himself from the primeval natural principle and to love. Almasy learns much the same from his Kathy, who shows him the true meaning of Herodotus, of history, of words themselves. He learns he cannot remain a free agent, avoiding responsibility and "ownership," because without incurring debts to another person, agency is pointless and freedom is an illusion. Almasy must lose his fabricated identity--symbolized by the "features," or mere markers, of history, the desert, and the physical body--in order to gain his soul, which turns out to be Kathy.

    When Almasy makes good on his promise and returns to the cave, the necrophilia scene (as subtle as any in all literature--compare its obvious counterpart in "Wuthering Heights") is an electric and electrifying intercourse of tongues, an exchange of lying words for a shared language. Kathy's sacrifice in taking into herself the old words of Almasy is her answer to his own sacrifice, an exorcism of the qualified, secretive language Almasy had formerly insisted on calling love. With that act Almasy is transformed from "demon lover" to lover, from a desert nomad and recorder of landmarks to co-author of and mutual participant in a new "text," an authentic discourse of love between two independent people who ultimately relate as one.

    To those who distrust the story's representations of history, remember that the story itself questions all such representations. Which is not to say it's a "romance." It's a love story--above all, a love "history," and as such it rings as true as any history since Emily Bronte's.

    BalasHapus
  3. "The English Patient" is, without a doubt, one of my very favorite books. It is lush, beautiful and gorgeous. And the glory of it is that it got that way with fine, first-rate writing. You won't find any gimmicks or ... tricks here.Unlike the movie, the book begins in war-torn Italy (1944) where we encounter Hana, a Canadian nurse and a horribly burned man known only as, "the English patient." Alone in an isolated, abandoned convent, Hana stays behind when her friends move on to care for the dying English patient. Hana is a rare individual and truly caring. She spends her days reading to the English patient from the volume of Herodotus that was found with him and, when his pain becomes too great, she injects him with morphine.Hana and the English patient aren't alone long, however. A mysterious man named Caravaggio soon arrives and it becomes clear that he has an agenda all his own. Nevertheless, it is Caravaggio who succeeds with the English patient where others have failed. This trio is soon joined by a Sikh named Kip, a man who will play a role in Hana's life, just as she will play a role in his.Eventually, of course, we learn all about the English patient, who really isn't English at all, but a Hungarian count named, Almasy. We learn where he's been and why and how he came to be so horribly burned. We learn about the great love of his life, a love that sadly, was doomed from the very start.This is a book that is told on two levels and contains two love stories. One takes place in the past and the other takes place in the present. While Hana's story is told in the present tense, it is not as involving or as intense as is the love story involving Almasy that takes place in the past. I think this is because Hana and her lover are not as fully-realized as are Almasy and his lover, though Hana is by far the most sympathetic character in the book.The character of Caravaggio is as mysterious as is the English patient. We do learn about him, however, and about his mysterious connection to Almasy. The stories of Hana and Caravaggio are heartbreaking and heartbreakingly beautiful."The English Patient" is a quiet love story, one told without the necessity of melodrama or "fireworks." However, it is one that cuts deep, and one that any reader will remember long after the book is finished. This is a story that simply rings with universal chords...of love, of loss, of sadness, of betrayal.If I have one quibble with this book, it is with the denouement. I didn't really want to know what happened to some of the characters in the distant future. I wanted Ondaatje to leave a little for my imagination. But he didn't and that's his choice. It certainly didn't ruin the book for me.The writing in "The English Patient" is lyrical and beautiful, though spare. Ondaatje is first and foremost a poet, and it shows. This is a book that flows, that cascades, that washes over you with its words.I first read "The English Patient" years ago and I haven't forgotten a single detail. "The English Patient" is a book that captures your heart and never lets go. It is a book that will haunt you with its beauty and with its sadness for many years to come, perhaps even for the rest of your life. Yes, it's that good.

    BalasHapus
  4. Thomas Gillespie16 Desember 2011 12.32

    48 of 53 people found the following review helpful

    BalasHapus
  5. 5.0 out of 5 stars

    BalasHapus
  6. Jeffery Compton21 November 2012 11.32

    I'm only 13 years old, and I love this book. I couldn't put it down. It just draws you in, forcing you to read more. I can't get enough of it. I can't believe there are people that actually hate this book. It's not hard to read (as some people said) and very interesting. Some people who wrote the reviews for this book said that a younger person couldn't understand or relate to this book. If I can, then any kid my age could.

    BalasHapus
  7. There was a time, not too long ago, when you could sit in a cafe and hear the words The English Patient within the half hour, either that or see someone with their head ducked into the pages of the book between slurps of coffee. Of course this popularity made me wary of the book and the movie and I formed ready stereotypes and turned my attention elsewhere. Then the paperback copies of the book started to come out with the actors faces on it, and I have vowed never to by a book that brandishes its connection to the movie version of the story - call me a grumpy old man, but it seems that the book was the book before it was the movie and I'd much rather form my own visual and dramatic accompaniment to the text without seeing the face of some actor. (Disclaimer: I might love the movie if I actually saw it, but that's not the point!)

    And yet, poetic justice prevails. On a slow winter morning at my coffee shop, I looked warily over at a copy of The English Patient that someone had left on the shelf months ago. In fact, I didn't even think that I was picking up "The English Patient", and instead looked to the merits of the book's fine author Michael Ondaatje. I thought of Anil's Ghost, which I enjoyed, and Coming through Slaughter, and thought it might do me good to start off my day with a glance at the inspired prose of a great writer. Later, I would read about Hana reading to the English patient: "When she begins a book she enters through stilted doorwas into large courtyards. Parma and Paris and India spread their carpets." In the first paragraph of this book, we enter into The Villa, following Hana into the room where the English patient lies. "She turns into the room which is another garden - this one made up of trees and bowers painted over its walls and ceiling. The man lies on the bed, his body exposed to the breeze, and he turns his head slowly towards her as she enters..." We are introduced to a relationship, and through the relationship, to a place, and through the place, to a war, and through the war, to the strange lurches of a civilization in a time of great change and to individuals trying to situate themselves amidst the absurdly ordered chaos of it all. Once you fall under the spell of the story, you are left to dream, and to be changed forever by the experience.

    BalasHapus
  8. Set at the end of World War II in an Italian villa, The English Patient brings together four unlikely characters: Hana, an emotionally-wounded army nurse who refuses to leave her last patient even when ordered to evacuate; Caravaggio, a friend of Hana's father, thief and spy, a man who is drawn to Hana in ways he cannot articulate; Kip, an Indian sapper loyal to the British military who disarms bombs by day, loves Hana by night; and the mysterious burned invalid, the English patient of the title, who unites them all in unexpected ways. Told in poetic, often elliptical language, this novel demands to be savored instead of read voraciously. The images are just as likely to be visually precise as they are inexplicable. Unlike the movie, which concentrates on the love story between the English patient and the woman he loved, the novel is more about the confusing impulses that lead to both passion and danger in all the characters.Serious readers of literature should read this novel more than once, for its subtleties, imagery, and the force of its lyricism. More casual readers may find it tough reading, not because the language is inaccessible but because of the way Ondaatje backs into his story. Those who stick with the author's poetic turns will be well-rewarded by the end.

    BalasHapus
  9. Muriel Cervantes16 Desember 2013 09.32

    Heartbreakingly Gorgeous, April 12, 2002

    BalasHapus