Michael Ondaatje

Michael Ondaatje

The Music in the Words

“The rhythm of music has been the biggest influence on my writing – it’s not Wordsworth, it’s Ray Charles.” Michael Ondaatje, one of Canada’s greatest authors, on how music and writing are so connected that they must sometimes be separated.

Ondaatje is influenced by music to such a degree that when he writes, he has to do so without music, as it affects the rhythm of the sentences too much. Words and sentences create their own rhythm, their own music: “The pacing of a paragraph or a long, long sentence that takes up over a page is closer to music than anything else I know.”

Michael Ondaatje (b. 1943) is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian novelist and poet. He moved to England in 1954 when he was 11, and in 1962 moved to Canada where he has lived ever since. Among his novels and poetry collections are ‘Coming Through Slaughter’ (1976), ‘The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left Handed Poems’ (1981), ‘In the Skin of a Lion’ (1987), ‘The English Patient’ (1992) for which he won the Booker Prize and which was later adapted into a movie, ‘Handwriting: Poems’ (1998), ‘Anil’s Ghost’ (2000), ‘Divisadero’ (2007) and ‘The Cat’s Table’ (2011). In 1988 Ondaatje was made an Officer of the Order of Canada and in 2005 we has honoured with Sri Lanka Ratna, the highest honour given by the Government of Sri Lanka for foreign nationals.

Michael Ondaatje was interviewed by Tonny Vorm in connection to the Louisiana Literature festival at Louisiana Museum of Modern Art in August 2014.

Camera: Klaus Elmer
Edited by: Sonja Strange
Produced by: Marc-Christoph Wagner
Copyright: Louisiana Channel, Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, 2015

Supported by Nordea-fonden

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