Friday, June 15, 2007

The English Patient, an extract

.. Just the Bedouin and us, crisscrossing the Forty Days Road. There were rivers of desert tribes, the most beautiful humans I've met in my life. We were German, English, Hungarian, African - all of us insignificant to them.

Gradually we became nationless. I came to hate nations. We are deformed by nation-states.

Madox died because of nations.

The desert could not be claimed or owned - it was a piece of cloth carried by winds, never held down by stones, and given a hundred shifting names long before Canterbury existed, long before battles and treaties quilted Europe and the East.

Its caravans, those strange rambling feasts and cultures, left nothing behind, not an ember. All of us, even those with European homes and children in the distance, wished to remove the clothing of our countries.

It was a place of faith. We disappeared into landscape. Fire and sand. We left the harbours of oasis. The places water came to and touched ... Ain, Bir, Wadi, Foggara, Khottara, Shaduf.

I didn't want my name against such beautiful names.
Erase the family name!
Erase nations!

I was taught such things by the desert.

... By the time the war arrived, after ten years in the desert, it was easy for me to slip across borders, not belong to anyone, to any nation.

Michael Ondaatje
from, The English Patient.

3 comments:

traveller one said...

Well Di... this is one of my favourite passages from my all-time favourite book and movie. I read it slowly, and once again see the incredible beauty of Ondatje's words. I'm a firm believer in a borderless world, and have often found peace in this book. In fact I think I'll go read it again for the umpteenth time!

womanwandering said...

Well Kim ... we have exquisite taste, don't we :)

I love the movie and have you read his 'Running in the Family'. The opening prose and imagery is sublime.

Have you read Anne Micheals, 'Fugutive Pieces'? If you want a copy, the secondhand bookshop in Antwerpen usually has one.

Her prose is as good as if not better than Ondaatje's and I adore his.

I do hope we find time to catch up and chat one day.

I'm rereading 'Anil's Ghost' at the moment. I find myself wanting to post beautiful sections from it too.

traveller one said...

Hahaaa.... I already knew that our reading tastes were very similar- I often check out your Library Thing and see my books there. Anne Michaels is a great author and yep I have Fugitive Pieces. I also have 6 of Ondatje's books, which I cheriesh.

I too hope one day to have the chance to drink a coffee with you (and how about Alison as well?)!!