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Re-Constructing the Fragments of Michael Ondaatje’s Works

Jean-Michel Lacroix

Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient: Why a Patient and a Nurse?

Carla Comellini


Le thème de la médecine occidentale (avec des références fréquentes à la vie et à la mort, à la survie et à la santé et avec la mise en scène de médecins, d’infirmières et de malades), a pour fonction dans le Patient anglais de signifier la fin de l’époque coloniale. Mais il y a aussi des références à la médecine alternative et aux soins et traitements pratiqués par les Bédouins et grâce auxquels le patient anglais a survécu. L’infirmière Hana a des doutes sur la médecine occidentale et Ondaatje implique que les remèdes traditionnels ont autant d’efficacité. Avec Hana et Kip, Ondaatje souligne le passage du vieux régime colonial vers une nouvelle ère post-coloniale. Ces deux personnages survivent contrairement à ceux qui incarnent la génération de l’époque coloniale.

Texte intégral

  • 1 Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1992.
  • 2 On the topic of Colonialism and Postcolonialism in M. Ondaatje's The English Patient see: Caria Co (...)

1As the title of my paper suggests - Why a patient and a nurse? and I could add, why a doctor? - I'd like to focus on the subtle reference to one of the themes linked to Colonialism which is pervasively used in The English Patient1, that is. Western medicine and its representatives — doctors, nurses and consequently patients. But, before dealing with this elusive and allusive reference, it is worth stressing that The English Patient is a novel where Colonialism and Postcolonialism interweave2, mimetically fused and confused in a fragmented, fragmentary and disrupted plot, which is based on four characters: a patient, a nurse, a sapper/doctor and a drug addict who are gathered in an Italian villa near Florence, a villa "that had been a war hospital" (p. 6) before the war-the Second World War — had moved north, as Ondaatje points out from the beginning of the novel.

  • 3 Nicholas B. Dirks, ed.,"Introduction" to Colonialism and Culture, Ann Arbor, University of Michiga (...)

2The novel is built on the main themes of Colonialism, such as history, geography, botany and anthropology", which, as well as Western medicine, were all Colonial enterprises3. Another theme runs through the novel: the feeling of belonging to a centre — the British Empire — or of being part of a universal dimension simply by sharing the English language and the knowledge of the same English books. Consequently, The English Patient is built on an intertexture created by the insertion of passages from history, literature and art, maps, notes on geographical expeditions, implicit historical connections, and metaphorical allusions to medicine. All these motifs, which appear in continuous shiftings in time and in place, are ironically and paradoxically subverted throughout the novel, as is typical of Postcolonial literary techniques. Thus, intertexture works both to disrupt the order of Colonialism and to express that dynamic urge of withdrawing from the centre which permeates the Postcolonial realities and the novel itself.

3To fictionalize all this, Ondaatje uses the device of inventing a story with a seemingly English patient and other three characters who speak English, notwithstanding their different ethnical roots which are repeatedly noted upon. They belong to the British Empire: two of them are Canadians and the other is Indian. The English patient who doesn't belong to the British Empire is a dying patient, who survives until the end of the story thanks to the care of a female character, Hana, who is a nurse. The patient and Hana are staying in that villa/hospital near Florence, where an Italian Canadian who is a morphine addict, and an Indian Sikh who is a doctor, find shelter too.

4But Ondaatje also introduces an intriguing book which is only apparently an English book: The Histories by Herodotus, or the patient's copy of the English translation of Herodotus' book. It is because of The Histories, the book in English translation he has got with him, that the English patient — that burned man who had crashed in the desert — is erroneously identified as belonging to the English community and this mistake will be discovered only at the end of the story. That's why the English patient is taken for an Englishman: as a matter of fact he can speak English and he can even write in that language — as he does, writing notes, literary passages and references on his copy of the English translation of Herodotus' book. It is because of these ambiguities, or lies, that the main misunderstanding — or displacement — occurs in the novel. But, The Histories by Herodotus in English translation Works ironically in the novel representing "the book", that English book which was used to create and consolidate a cultural dependence in the British colonies. Moreover, as The Histories by Herodotus is not an English book, although it is at the basis of Western culture, The English Patient leads, ironically, to the 'discovery' of Colonial lies while the Colonial idea of English books as the source of universal knowledge is subverted.

  • 4 See: C. Comellini, "Geography and History as Literary Themes and Devices at Work in Michael Ondaat (...)

5The other minor characters — or the only 'real' English people in the fictional world of the novel — are mainly explorers, with the exception of Lord Suffolk "and his demolition team" (p.87) and two ladies: a secretary and the patient's lover who is the wife of one of the explorers’. All these characters who are all dead 'exist' in the novel simply because they are evoked through remembrances. Thus, they contribute to underlining the fictional interplay between life and death, truth and lies, reality and illusions. Moreover, thanks to the recurring allusions to death, constantly evoked not only through the figure of the dying English patient, but also, through words such as "mortal", or "funeral", in the novel there is an indirect allusion to the death of Colonialism, and, implicitly, to an imminent end of its fragile link, the Commonwealth. If Postcolonialism discovers and makes manifest those lies on which British Imperialism had built its Colonialism, in the novel the discovery of those lies occurs thanks to several literary devices which constantly subvert the themes which are at the basis of the Colonial enterprises. For instance, geography is not only introduced through maps, cartographie instruments, detailed descriptions of winds, but also through the metaphorical meanings of maps and through a composite imagery of the desert4, as well as the theme of Western medicine is elusively suggested through a metaphorical pattern which implies recurring references to life and death, to being alive, or dead, to be living or to be dying, to be sick, to survival, to "sanity". (p. 121) These motifs immediately suggest — at least in our Western culture — the place where one can be cured and saved or where one can die: the hospital. And references to hospitals or to Military hospitals or to temporary field hospitals or to the hospitals in Pisa (p. 6), or in Rome recur throughout the novel. In addition, references to doctors, nurses and consequently patients are scattered all over. Just from the word 'patient' in the title of the novel, the world of medicine, or the hospital, is immediately, although elusively, suggested. As a matter of fact it is in a semi—detached Italian villa that this peculiar and untraditional hospital is set. Even more peculiar is that a patient, a nurse, a doctor disguised as a sapper and a morphine addict are the only people gathered there. Moreover, the novel is permeated by recurring allusions to the world of medicine: there are references to drugs — "morphine" or "belladonna" — to diseases — for instance "burns", "epilepsy" or "fever" — to medical technology such as "x ray" (p.102, p.103) to vital acts such as "breathing", or "sleeping", or "bleeding", not to mention the incredible set of corporal references, such as — just to give a few examples — "tooth/teeth", "bones", "neck", "skin", "flesh", "chest", "shoulders", "arms", "eyes", "head", or "blood" and so on. In addition, the novel is imbued with an imagery built on similes and sentences referring to anatomical parts, such as: "The Moon is on him like skin" (p.31), or "her body full of stories and situations" (p.36) or "Gelato for tonsils". (p.29)

6But, in the novel, there are also references to healing, cures and treatments: for instance, the treatment of the Nomads or the Bédouins (p.5) thanks to which the English patient had survived. As Ondaatje himself reports, the Bedouins covered the burned body "in cloth" (p.9) and used a kind of medicine which could be defined as a natural healing; they used "a mask of grass fibres" (p.21) for his face and — as Ondaatje remarks again — "all the ointments within the bottles warmed from the sun" (p.9); "oils and perfumes and panaceas"; a "green—black paste [which] was ground peacock bone, bartered for in a medina to the west or the south — the most potent healer of skin." (p.10) Thus, obliquely, Ondaatje also points out that the remedies of ancient civilizations can compete with Western medicine. By the way, he subtlety States:

What civilization was this that understood the predictions of weather and light? El Ahmar or El Abyadd, for they must be one of the northwest desert tribes. Those who could catch a man out of the sky, who covered his face with a mask of oasis reeds knitted together. (pp.8-9)

7Moreover, as is implicitly suggested in the novel, the English patient, who had survived thanks to the natives' natural remedies, cannot recover at all in those Western hospitals in Italy, full of Western doctors and nurses. There, he can find only some relief from pain — through morphine and belladonna — while he is waiting for death. It is not surprising, then, that Ondaatje's nurse, impressed by the fact that the English patient is still alive only thanks to the natives' cures, becomes as doubtful about Western medicine as to suggest that Caravaggio, who had "his thumbs cut away" (p.54), might try the same natural remedies, with these words: "My patient thinks peacock bone ground up is a great healer." (p.34)

8Thus, in the fictional world of the novel, similarly to other already mentioned themes connected to Colonialism, the field of medicine, which is pervasively used as a metaphor, is indirectly and ironically subverted and contributes to stressing the ambiguity and lies of the Colonial enterprise. Another significant example of all this is offered by that passage where Kip remembers his medical visit at the Lahore Hospital, prior his enlistment in the British Army:

There was a line of us shuffling forward slowly front the Street into the medical building and out into the courtyard as we enlisted [...] A doctor cleared or rejected our bodies with his instruments, explored our necks with his hands. The tongs slid out of Dettol and picked up parts of our skin.
Those accepted filled up the courtyard. The coded results written onto our skin with yellow chalk. Later, in the lineup, after a brief interview, an Indian officer chalked more yellow onto the slates tied around our necks. Our weight, age, district, standard of education, dental condition and what unit we were best suited for.(pp. 199-201)

9Ambiguity is created and reinforced by the fact that Kip simply serves as a soldier and not as a doctor, although — as the above cited passage testifies — the "standard of education" was checked in "a brief interview". Couldn't he serve as a doctor in the British Army because he was a native and not a white man? The answer seems to be elusively offered by Ondaatje several pages earlier:

The English! They expect you to fight for them but won't talk to you. Singh. And the ambiguities. (p.188)

10This statement could be interpreted as follows: The English! They expect you to fight for them but won't be cured by you. Another reason for Ondaatje's disguising Kip, the doctor, as a sapper could be found in the fact that Kip, whose "darkness of skin" (p. 181) is remarked on a few lines before the mention of his family traditions, "was the second son [...who] would be a doctor [...] An old tradition in his family" (p. 182). This allusion to an old tradition of medicine implies subtlety that there is another kind of medicine which is rooted in an old, native — or Indian in this case — concept of healing, as well as in a different concept of life and death. As a matter of fact, nowadays Western medicine is sided by alternative, natural, or old native 'medicine' — such as Chinese, or Indian. These subtleties reveal why Kip, who belongs to his own old tradition, cannot work as a doctor in the novel, although he is so hybridised as to be called an "international bastard". (p.176) For similar reasons there are no doctors, but only a dying patient and a nurse in that villa metaphorically used as an hospital and as a Symbol of the decaying Western society. Moreover, it must be mentioned that, notwisthstanding the recurring references to doctors, only two are described in their duties in the novel: one is in charge of enlistments visits and he is presumedly a colonial doctor — as is suggested by the reference to a native counterpart, "an Indian officer" in the above cited passage; the other one — "this merchant doctor, this king of oils and perfumes and panaceas" — as he is called in the novel — is a native doctor whose remedies, which made the English patient survive, are described in detail in the first pages of the novel:

[...] he saw a man's head on a table moving towards him, then realized the man wore a giant yoke from which hung hundreds of small bottles on different lengths of string and wire. [...] The man moved with a long, slow gait, so smoothly there was hardly a tilt in the bottles. A wave of glass, an archangel, all the ointments within the bottles warmed from the sun, so when they were rubbed onto skin they seemed to have been heated especially for a wound. [...] The faint glass noise and the diverse colours and the regal walk and his face like a lean dark gun. [...] He sank to his knees and came towards the burned pilot and put his cold hands on his neck and held them there.
He was known to everyone along the camel route from the Sudan north to Giza, the Forty Days Road. He met the caravans, traded spice and liquid, and moved between oases and water camps. He walked through sandstorms with this coat of bottles, his ears plugged with two other small corks so he seemed a vessel to himself this merchant doctor, this king of oils and perfumes and panaceas, this baptist. He would enter a camp and set up the curtain of bottles in front of whoever was sick.
He crouched by the burned man. He made a skin cup with the soles of his feet and leaned back to pluck, without even looking, certain bottles. With the uncorking of each tiny bottle the perfumes fell out. There was an odour of the sea. The smell of rust. Indigo. Ink. River—mud arrow—wood formaldehyde paraffin ether. [...] He began to rub green—black paste onto the rib cage. It was ground peacock bone, bartered for in a medina to the west or the south the most potent healer of skin. (pp.9—10)

11As can be reconstructed by reordering the fragmentary and disrupted pattern of the novel, the dying patient, that English patient who gives the title to the novel, is a terminal patient who cannot be saved and who has become a morphine addict. In that State is he really alive? As a matter of fact he wonders:

Or am I just a book? Something to be read, some creature to be tempted out of a loch and shot full of morphine, full of corridors, lies, loose vegetation, pockets of stones? (p.253)

12The Italian-Canadian Caravaggio has to use morphine too, because of the tortures he had suffered — meaning his thumbs cut away — and because of the pain he is still having: he can be considered a patient too, as Ondaatje reveals through Hana's words:

I would remove those bandages on your hands: I am a nurse, you know." (p. 53)

13Hana, the nurse, is first generation Canadian. "She has nursed him [the English patients] for months", Ondaatje says in the opening page of the novel. And she keeps taking care of him as is pointed out in the novel:

She would lay belladonna over his eyes, give him saline baths for the keloided skin and extensive burns. (p.51)

14An Indian Sikh, Kirpal Singh is a doctor, although he is disguised as Kip and as a soldier of the British Empire Army in charge of dismantling bombs, or, as Ondaatje says fragmentarily in the novel: "The sapper's nickname is Kip" (p.87). Kirpal Singh «had volunteered himself into a unit of engineers that had been set up to deal with delayed-action and unexploded bombs» (pp. 182) [...]; «no longer to be a doctor» (p.201)

15As a matter of fact, patients, nurses and doctors constitute a microcosm called hospital, as is elusively suggested by this passage from the novel:

The patients and doctors and nurses and equipment and sheets and towels—all went back down the hill into Florence and then to Pisa. She had salted away codeine tablets as well as the morphine" (p.42)

16Any hospital represents a separate world — a world of healing, suffering and death — inhabited by patients, doctors and nurses — and, in the novel, all this implies an oblique connection with Colonialism. As a matter of fact, in the Colonial period, doctors and nurses were part of the Colonial enterprise, both imposing a different or Western, or superior concept of healing and, on the other hand, succeeding in defeating diseases which had been deadly until then. Doctors were usually white men who, building hospitals in Colonial areas, ended up by acting the ambiguous role of both offering healings from suffering and of destroying old native beliefs and rituals while they contributed to the Colonial enterprise by imposing Western knowledge even in medicine and by creating new disciples among the natives: mainly nurses and a few doctors. But if the doctor in the novel is not a white man and is disguised as a sapper, this is in line with the subversion on which the novel is built.

  • 5 Jan Savage, Nurses, Gender and Sexuality, Heinemann, London, 1987, p.63.
  • 6 Ibid., p.73: "These images may be cross—cut by others, such as racial stereotypes. Black nurses su (...)
  • 7 Ibid., In the sixties they became background figures totally shadowed by men/doctors as in "Dr Kil (...)

17Nurses were part of the same Colonial enterprise, but in a slightly different way: they were usually women and thus part of a minority too. And it is not by chance that, until recently, there were only two typical female jobs: teaching or nursing. These jobs were connected to the stereotype of women as mothers and housewives, or angels, taking care of children and old people in their own families. Thus, these jobs were considered as a natural projection of female attitudes and duties from the microcosm of the family into another: either the school or the hospital. In fact, as Savage says, "it is no accident that women constitute the majority of the nursing workforce until very recently [...] and doctors were men [...] women segregated into occupations which are typically lower paid, coming lower in an overall hierarchy of authority5 " Moreover, there is another stereotypé linking the image of women to the image of female nurses: as well as women, who were considered either angels/madonnas if they were good mothers and housewives, or whores if they were sex—objects, nurses — as Savage remarks — fell "into three main stereotypes: the angel/madonna [...] the battle axe bitch and the sex—object whore"6. The stereotypes of nurses as angels or madonnas in particular were imposed through television and film images in the fifties: they were "good nurses very intuitive, self—sacrificing and comforting7".

  • 8 Cf., Isabel E.P., Menzies, The Functioning of Social System as a Defense Against Anxiety, London, (...)

18Thus, through Hana, his nurse character, Ondaatje focuses on Colonialism. Hana represents "the very intuitive, self—sacrificing and comforting" good nurse, that angel/madonna of Colonial times, but, in the novel, she is also the one who survives, undergoing a process of change and self—transformation which reflects the change from the old Colonial order towards the new Postcolonial one. During her stay in the villa/hospital, Hana, as any nurse usually does, had to be "confronted with the thread and reality of suffering8" — both of the English patient and of Caravaggio — and with the thread and reality of death — not only because of the imminent death of the English patient, but also because of the soldiers' deaths — among these her father — during the war. And as Ondaatje makes manifest in the novel, she had to face several shocking experiences: for instance, the case of "a dead soldier, someone who had died under her care" (p.47) Thus, "Hana broke in Santa Chiara Hospital when [she received the] letter [telling] her of the death of her father" (p.41). But, as Ondaatje reveals: "she survived by keeping a coldness hidden in her role as nurse." (p.48) Or "She had continued her duties while she secretly pulled her personal self back." (p. 178) And Hana herself declares in the novel: "I will survive this. I won't fall apart at this." (p.48)

  • 9 Ibid., pp.5—6.

19Thus, she felt all the mixing feelings which any nurse feels such as: "pity, compassion and love; guilt and anxiety; hatred and resentment of the patients [...]; libidinal impulses [meaning] life giving; aggressive impulses [meaning] death dealing9." And all these mixed feelings — which all nurses share — are expressed in the novel through sentences such as: "Nurses too became shell—shocked from the dying around them." (p.41); "So many nurses had turned into emotionally disturbed handmaidens of the war" (p. 178). In addition, the direct impact of physical illness on Hana is strictly linked both to her psychological stress and to the stress involving the English patient and Caravaggio, physically tormented by their pain and mentally and psychologically upset because of the morphine. Thus, Hana becomes more and more confused and split into two identities: the identity of her parents’ roots and her being Canadian, as well as the identity created by her job as a war—nurse and an urge for self—transformation into another, different kind of woman as she is at the end of the novel. Then, having discovered all the lies of Colonialism she rejects her previous intent which was — as Ondaatje reveals in the first pages of the novel: "to save him, this nameless, almost faceless man who had been one of the two hundreds or so placed in her care" (p.52). Thus, she decides to abandon her patient as she confesses in the last pages of the novel: "He was a burned man and I was a nurse and I could have nursed him [...] I could have saved him or at least been with him till the end”, (p.296) Her experience as a nurse, looking after a dying patient she could not save, ends up by transforming her into another woman as Ondaatje reveals from Hana's portrait in the last pages of the novel:

She is a woman of honour and smartness [...] always taking risks, and there is something in her brow now that only she can recognize in a mirror. Ideal and idealistic in that shiny dark hair! People fall in love with her [...] She is a woman I don't know well enough to hold in my wing, if writers have wings, to harbour for the rest of my life. (p.301)

  • 10 See: J.U.Jacobs, "Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Postcolonial Impatience", Conference (...)

20Even the stereotype of nurses as sexual objects — often having affairs with doctors — is obliquely introduced and subverted in The English Patient. In the villa/hospital, Hana, the nurse, has an affair with the soldier/doctor, Kip the Indian. Thus, through the sexual affair between the Indian Kip and the white woman Hana, the old Colonial stereotype is subverted again. Moreover, because Kip is not a white, but a native man or — as he is defined in the novel — "the anonymous member of another race, a part of the invisible world" (p.196), he, who was not fighting as a doctor in the British Army, will be a doctor again in his own society, ending up by embodying the new man of the new Postcolonial realities, those realities which are the result of the hybridisation of the Colonial with the old, native culture. As is made manifest in Ondaatje's desperate urge for a new Postcolonial society, or — as Jacobs says, in Ondaatje's Postcolonial impatience10 — in the novel Kip ends up by embodying the new David, or "my David" (p. 116), as the English patients calls him, recalling Caravaggio's painting David with the Head of Goliath, (p. 116) Thus, through Caravaggio's painting, Ondaatje elusively presents a metaphorical image both of the Colonial past and of a Postcolonial future where Goliath suggests the dying patient and, implicitly, the dying English Empire, while Kip embodies a reborn David. "He'll survive" says the English patient (p. 121); "He was confident that I had the trick of survival, of being able to hide in silent places" (p.201) writes Ondaatje reporting Kip's brother's thought. And, as Ondaatje lets us know in his typical, obliquely, fragmentary and fragmented way, Kip has the capacity of surviving because of his own hereditary charateristics: not only "He had come from a country where mathematics and mechanics were natural traits" (p. 188), but he can also invent "objects that could be made from the various components" (p. 188). Or as Ondaatje points out again:

with his background in inventions he probably had more qualifications than most. He was an autodidact, and he believed his mind could read the motives and spirit behind any invention. He had immediately invented the pocket shirt, which allowed fuzes and gadgets to be stored easily by a working sapper. (p.186)

21 The English Patient, with its metaphorical allusions to medicine and to survival, seems to suggest that survival, not only physical, but also psychological survival, was the first imperative in Colonial realities. Only Hana and Kip survive; the English patient and Caravaggio, who both belong to an older generation or to the time of Colonialism, are destined to disappear, as is elusively suggested by the fact that they both are patients and morphine addicts. At the end of the novel, the English patient is abandoned dying in the villa where even "the candle dies out" (p.298) and Caravaggio seems to vanish. By belonging to the world of medicine, respectively as a nurse and as a doctor, Hana and Kip had discovered that the ambiguity and lies of Colonialism are connected also to medicine and that Western medicine is not the only kind and not even the best or the most powerful kind. Moreover, they both "took risks" in transforming themselves into Postcolonial people by rejecting Western mentality as is clarified both by Hana's choice of abandoning her job as a nurse and of finding a shelter in the lands of the North American Natives and by Kip's desertion from the British Army after the explosion of the nuclear bomb on Hiroshima. Kip will finally become Kirpal Singh again and a doctor in a clinic when he returns home to an India which is no longer part of the British Empire. There, the only link left is the Commonwealth, but, as the dying English patient's agony seems to suggest, that link is weakening and is, perhaps, nearing an end.


1 Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, Toronto, McClelland & Stewart Inc., 1992.

2 On the topic of Colonialism and Postcolonialism in M. Ondaatje's The English Patient see: Caria Comellini, "Review of M. Ondaatje's The English Patient", Il Tolomeo, I, ed. by G. Marra, Venezia, Martellago, 1996, pp.49—51; Comellini, "Colonialismo e Post—colonialismo in The English Patient di Michael Ondaatje" (delivered at the XVIII Italian/English Association Conference, University of Genova, 30/9—2/10/1996), forthcoming in the Proceedings, 1999. On Colonialism and Postcolonialism in general see: Bill Ashcroft, Gareth Griffiths and Helen Tiffin, eds., The Post—Colonial Studies Reader, London and New York, Routledge, 1995; Francis Barker, Peter Hulme and Margaret Iversen, eds., Colonial Discourse/Postcolonial Theory, Manchester and New York, Manchester U.P., 1994; Elleke Boehmer, Colonial & Postcolonial Literature, Oxford, Oxford U.P., 1995.

3 Nicholas B. Dirks, ed.,"Introduction" to Colonialism and Culture, Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press, 1992, p.6.

4 See: C. Comellini, "Geography and History as Literary Themes and Devices at Work in Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient" in Isabella M.Zoppi, ed., Routes of the Roots: Geography and Literature in the English-Speaking Countries, Roma, Bulzoni, 1998, I, pp.345-354; Graham Huggan, "Decolonizing the Map" in Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, eds., op.cit., pp.407—411.

5 Jan Savage, Nurses, Gender and Sexuality, Heinemann, London, 1987, p.63.

6 Ibid., p.73: "These images may be cross—cut by others, such as racial stereotypes. Black nurses suffer additionally from the way in which the sexuality of black women has become stereotyped, stemming historically from their sexual exploitation by white male colonialists".

7 Ibid., In the sixties they became background figures totally shadowed by men/doctors as in "Dr Kildare” T.V. shows. In the seventies — as Savage points out again — "nurse characters provide sexual interest — as in "M.A.S.H.", even if at the end of the series, nurses are shown as indispensable, independent, skilled and thoughtful working in equal partnership with other male members."

8 Cf., Isabel E.P., Menzies, The Functioning of Social System as a Defense Against Anxiety, London, The Tavistock Institute of Human Relations, 1993 (1970), p.5

9 Ibid., pp.5—6.

10 See: J.U.Jacobs, "Michael Ondaatje's The English Patient and Postcolonial Impatience", Conference paper delivered at the University of Western Cape, July 1996, in Journal of Literary Studies, University of South Africa, Pretoria, March 1977.


Department of Modem Foreign Languages and Literatures, Université de Bologne, Italie.

© Presses Sorbonne Nouvelle, 1999

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