Quelque part en Italie, dans une villa transformée en hôpital militaire, Hana, une jeune infirmière, veille sur son unique patient : un aviateur anglais, atrocement brûlé lors d'un accident d'avion dans le Sahara. La Seconde Guerre mondiale s'achève. Les Alliés remontent vers le nord. Mais Hana refuse de partir. Ce qui lui reste de vie et d'espoir, elle le donne à cet inconnu, à ce corps de grand brûlé qu'elle baigne comme celui d'un enfant ou d'un saint. Deux hommes font irruption dans la villa. Le premier est un monte-en-l'air à qui ses talents ont valu de servir dans le Renseignement militaire. Le second, Kip, un jeune sikh enrôlé dans l'armée britannique, désamorce les bombes avec élégance. Il a planté sa tente dans le jardin. Hana l'y rejoint la nuit, pour parler, faire l'amour, dormir. Tandis que la mort rôde autour de la villa éventrée par les obus, chacun dévoile son histoire. La plus énigmatique demeure celle de ce patient anglais, ivre de morphine, amoureux du désert et détruit par sa passion pour une femme rencontrée au Caire, à la veille de la guerre. Mais qui est-il au juste ? Un aventurier ? Un savant ? Ou un espion à la solde des Allemands ? Ce livre somptueux et imprévisible est une plongée dans un univers romanesque peuplé de visions nocturnes, d'odeurs, de souvenirs. Sa puissance et sa beauté lui ont valu le Booker Prize en 1992.
“A tour de force....startling, enchanting.” —Maclean's
“Ondaatje slowly unravels a tapestry of images and dramatic (and exotic) tableaux…. [He] creates fascinating visual and sensual effects.” —Toronto Star
“Ondaatje’s most intimate yet.... Wonderful, offering all the best pleasures of Ondaatje’s writing.” —Globe and Mail
“Ondaatje's most accessible, compelling novel to date. It may also be his finest...A breathtaking account not only of boyhood, but of its loss....Universal in its themes, heartbreakingly so, and a journey the reader will never forget.” —Vancouver Sun, (Ottawa Citizen, Calgary Herald)
“Ondaatje here fashions an entire world…. Is there a novelist who writes more compellingly about tenderness than Ondaatje?... Breathtaking.” —Montreal Gazette
“A convincing and genuinely moving narrative.” —National Post
“Michael Ondaatje wows with his tale of three boys who find friendship and intrigue on a sea voyage carrying them to the brink of adulthood.” —Chatelaine
“The mystery and magic of The Cat’s Table– and this can be said of all of Ondaatje’s writing, including his best-known novel, The English Patient (1992) – lies in its sinuous narrative weave between present, past and a future sometimes contemplated, sometimes fated, and then always inhabited…. As the latest of Ondaatje’s artful and glowing geographies and histories of the human heart, this vessel makes another, differently disposed, but related voyage across several strangely familiar seas.” —Winnipeg Free Press
“A story so enveloping and beautifully rendered, one is reluctant to disembark at the end of the journey…. Though the ocean journey in The Cat’s Table lasts a mere 21 days, it encapsulates the fullness of a lifetime.” —Quill and Quire
“[Ondaatje] is justly recognised as a master of literary craft….As we read into The Cat’s Table the story becomes more complex, more deadly, with an increasing sense of lives twisted awry, of misplaced devotion….The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country…. All that was seen and experienced, is carried ashore by the passengers in memories, damaged psyches, degrees of loss, evanescent joy and reordered lives.” —Annie Proulx, The Guardian
“No one who has read a novel or poem by Ondaatje can easily forget its powerful imagery…. His wondrous prose feels more alive to the world than ever before.” —Financial Times
“Three children mapping the hidden regions of a floating world – a world of displaced people, of travelers between lands…. The Cat’s Table deserves to be recognized for the beauty and poetry of its writing: pages that lull you with their carefully constructed rhythm, sailing you effortlessly from chapter to chapter and leaving you bereft when forced to disembark at the novel’s end.” — The Telegraph (UK)
“Ondaatje’s great achievement is demonstrating that fiction can be stranger than truth.” — The Spectator (UK)
“An eloquent, elegiac tribute to the game of youth and how it shapes what follows…. Sheer brilliance of characterization on show. The bit players on board The Oronsay are almost Dickensian in their eccentricity and lovability….. Ondaatje has created a beautiful and poetic study here of what it means to have your very existence metaphorically, as well as literally, at sea.” —The Independent on Sunday (UK)
“The Cat’s Table is an exquisite example of the richness that can flourish in the gaps between fact and fiction…. It is an adventure story, it is a meditation on power, memory, art, childhood, love and loss. It displays a technique so formidable as to seem almost playful. It is one of those rare books that one could reread an infinite number of times, and always find something new within its pages.” —London Evening Standard
“In a novel superbly poised between the magic of innocence and the melancholy of experience, Mr. Ondaatje probes what it means to have a cautious heart.” —The Economist
“The* Cat's Table* shimmers with the freshness of a child's wide-eyed and openhearted perspective….a yearning tribute with an almost fairytale-like aura to the memories of awe that pervade our dreams (and nightmares and fears), and the memories of sometimes unlikely affiliation and love and what we mistake as love that pervade and haunt our hearts, guide us or sometimes lead us astray.” —Bookgaga (blog)
In the early 1950s, an eleven-year-old boy in Colombo boards a ship bound for England. At mealtimes he is seated at the “cat’s table”—as far from the Captain’s Table as can be—with a ragtag group of “insignificant” adults and two other boys, Cassius and Ramadhin. As the ship makes its way across the Indian Ocean, through the Suez Canal, into the Mediterranean, the boys tumble from one adventure to another, bursting all over the place like freed mercury. But there are other diversions as well: one man talks with them about jazz and women, another opens the door to the world of literature. The narrator’s elusive, beautiful cousin Emily becomes his confidante, allowing him to see himself “with a distant eye” for the first time, and to feel the first stirring of desire. Another Cat’s Table denizen, the shadowy Miss Lasqueti, is perhaps more than what she seems. And very late every night, the boys spy on a shackled prisoner, his crime and his fate a galvanizing mystery that will haunt them forever.
As the narrative moves between the decks and holds of the ship and the boy’s adult years, it tells a spellbinding story—by turns poignant and electrifying—about the magical, often forbidden, discoveries of childhood and a lifelong journey that begins unexpectedly with a spectacular sea voyage.
Haunting and harrowing, as beautiful as it is disturbing, The English Patient tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian monastery as World War II ends. The exhausted nurse, Hana; the maimed thief, Caravaggio; the wary sapper, Kip: each is haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless, burn victim who lies in an upstairs room and whose memories of passion, betrayal, and rescue illuminate this book like flashes of heat lightning. In lyrical prose informed by a poetic consciousness, Michael Ondaatje weaves these characters together, pulls them tight, then unravels the threads with unsettling acumen.
A book that binds readers of great literature, The English Patient garnered the Booker Prize for author Ondaatje. The poet and novelist has also written In the Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter and The Collected Works of Billy the Kid; two collections of poems, The Cinnamon Peeler and There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do; and a memoir, Running in the Family.
From Publishers Weekly
Canadian author Ondaatje offers a poetic novel set in a desolate Italian villa in the final days of WWII--a one-week PW bestseller--and an evocative account of a visit with his family in Sri Lanka. Copyright 1993 Reed Business Information, Inc.