Michael Ondaatje’s "The English Patient" is characterised by a high degree of intertextuality: passages from the Bible, from Milton’s "Paradise Lost", from Daphne Du Maurier’s "Rebecca" (which is used to pass secret military messages and codes during the war), from Fenimore Cooper’s "The Last of the Mohicans", from Stendhal’s "La Chartreuse de Parme", from Tolstoj’s "Anna Karenina" all intertwine in the course of the narrative. There are also numerous references to ancient history and literature, in particular to "The Histories" by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus: a copy of this book has always been by the side of the English patient, who has added to, cutting and gluing in pages from other books or writing in his own observations — so they are all cradled within the Herodotean text. The aim of my paper is to analyse the various meanings and functions that Herodotus’ "Histories" assume within Ondaatje’s novel: the 'Father of History' plays a crucial role during the narration, becoming Almásy’s guide to the desert landscape, his voluminous work, which Almásy has turned into a 'commonplace book' by splicing fragments of his own personal history into the Herodotean narrative, is analogous to the English patient’s life, which too becomes voluminous with the stories of his life. Furthermore, the title of Herodotus’ book shows that history is only a representation coexisting with other histories, while the story of the vain King Candaules helps to form an intertextual connection with the English patient’s life – literally connected with the Greek author since he has merged his own history into the Herodotean narrative. Herodotus is also used as a structuring device, because, just as he skips from one country or city to another, from a century to another in his work, the narration of "The English Patient" glides back and forth from the wartime present of the Tuscan villa to the pre-war days of desert exploration which offers the background for Almásy and Katharine’s affair. To conclude, not only does Ondaatje present a postcolonial/postmodern criticism of Herodotus’ work, with, among other things, the cultural symbolism the Greek text as the source of Western historiography inserted into the narration through its personal significance for the English patient, but he also uses it to create his own narrative, making "The Histories" part and parcel of his novel.

Herodotean Echoes in Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient" / F. Prina. ((Intervento presentato al 16. convegno ESSE Conference tenutosi a Mainz : 29 August - 2 September nel 2022.

Herodotean Echoes in Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient"

F. Prina
2022-09-02

Abstract

Michael Ondaatje’s "The English Patient" is characterised by a high degree of intertextuality: passages from the Bible, from Milton’s "Paradise Lost", from Daphne Du Maurier’s "Rebecca" (which is used to pass secret military messages and codes during the war), from Fenimore Cooper’s "The Last of the Mohicans", from Stendhal’s "La Chartreuse de Parme", from Tolstoj’s "Anna Karenina" all intertwine in the course of the narrative. There are also numerous references to ancient history and literature, in particular to "The Histories" by the ancient Greek historian Herodotus: a copy of this book has always been by the side of the English patient, who has added to, cutting and gluing in pages from other books or writing in his own observations — so they are all cradled within the Herodotean text. The aim of my paper is to analyse the various meanings and functions that Herodotus’ "Histories" assume within Ondaatje’s novel: the 'Father of History' plays a crucial role during the narration, becoming Almásy’s guide to the desert landscape, his voluminous work, which Almásy has turned into a 'commonplace book' by splicing fragments of his own personal history into the Herodotean narrative, is analogous to the English patient’s life, which too becomes voluminous with the stories of his life. Furthermore, the title of Herodotus’ book shows that history is only a representation coexisting with other histories, while the story of the vain King Candaules helps to form an intertextual connection with the English patient’s life – literally connected with the Greek author since he has merged his own history into the Herodotean narrative. Herodotus is also used as a structuring device, because, just as he skips from one country or city to another, from a century to another in his work, the narration of "The English Patient" glides back and forth from the wartime present of the Tuscan villa to the pre-war days of desert exploration which offers the background for Almásy and Katharine’s affair. To conclude, not only does Ondaatje present a postcolonial/postmodern criticism of Herodotus’ work, with, among other things, the cultural symbolism the Greek text as the source of Western historiography inserted into the narration through its personal significance for the English patient, but he also uses it to create his own narrative, making "The Histories" part and parcel of his novel.
Settore L-LIN/10 - Letteratura Inglese
https://online.flippingbook.com/view/935004389/
Herodotean Echoes in Michael Ondaatje's "The English Patient" / F. Prina. ((Intervento presentato al 16. convegno ESSE Conference tenutosi a Mainz : 29 August - 2 September nel 2022.
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Utilizza questo identificativo per citare o creare un link a questo documento: http://hdl.handle.net/2434/937056
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