On a Mystery Voyage with Michael Ondaatje

Each book by Michael Ondaatje is, thrillingly, a departure, in some way unclassifiable. He is by no means a fantasist, but in the manner of a lyric poet (which he is also), he deploys juxtaposition and silence, as well as language and narrative, to create new worlds and new thoughts out of the real. Books like In the Skin of a Lion, Running in the Family, The English Patient, Anil’s Ghost, and Divisadero are fictions that provoke and unsettle as much as, and even sometimes more than, they delight. In Ondaatje’s work, predictable boundaries are always in question: Is this poetry or prose? Fact or fiction? Real or imaginary? He writes from the space where memory, history, the dreamed, and the imagined converge, even while remaining respectful of the unknowable interstices between character, author, and reader.