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Michael Ondaatje Quotes (75 Quotes)


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  • Give me a map and I'll build you a city.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • Men had always been the reciters of poetry in the desert.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • What he would say, he cannot say to this woman whose openness is like a wound, whose youth is not mortal yet. He cannot alter what he loves most in her, her lack of compromise, where the romance of the poems she loves still sits with ease in the real world. Outside these qualities he knows there is no order in the world.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • He had been slowing down, the way one, half asleep, continually rereads the same paragraph trying to find a connection between sentences.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • Moments before sleep are when she feels most alive, leaping across fragments of the day, bringing each moment into the bed with her like a child with schoolbooks and pencils. The day seems to have no order until these times, which are like a ledger for her, her body full of stories and situations.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")


  • When we are young we do not look into mirrors. It is when we are old, concerned with our name, our legend, what our lives will mean to the future. We become vain with the names we own, our claims to have been the first eyes, the strongest army, the cleverest merchant. It is when he is old that Narcissus wants a graven image of himself.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • He has been disassembled by her. And if she has brought him to this, what has he brought her to?
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • Nowadays he doesn't think of his wife, though he knows he can turn around and evoke every move of her, describe any aspect of her, the weigh of her wrist on his heart during the night.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • Why are you not smarter? It's only the rich who can't afford to be smart. They're compromised. They got locked years ago into privilege. They have to protect their belongings. No one is meaner than the rich. Trust me. But they have to follow the rules of their shitty civilised world. They declare war, they have honour, and they can't leave. But you two. We three. We're free.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • He knows that the only way he can accept losing her is if he can continue to hold her or be held by her. If they can somehow nurse each other out of this. Not with a wall.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • Women want everything of a lover. And too often I would sink below the surface. So armies disappear under sand. And there was her fear of her husband, her belief in her honour, my old desire for self-sufficiency, my disappearances, her suspicions of me, my disbelief that she loved me. The paranoia and claustrophobia of hidden love.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • He was a man who wrote, who interpreted the world. Wisdom grew out of being handed just the smallest sliver of emotion. A glance could lead to paragraphs of theory.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • She had grown older. And he loved her more now than he had loved her when he understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become.
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")

  • You built your walls too, she tells him. So I have my wall. She says it glittering in a beauty he cannot stand. She with her beautiful clothes with her pale face that laughs at everyone who smiles at her...
    (Michael Ondaatje, "The English Patient")


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