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Ondaatje, Michael

Poet and novelist, born in Colombo, Ceylon/Sri Lanka, in 1943, whose works have been adapted to the stage. He was born of Dutch, English, Sinhalese and Tamil descent and emigrated to London, England, when he was 11. He moved to Canada in 1962 and studied at Bishopís University, where he got started theatrically under Arthur Motyer; he starred in two shows at Bishop's, both directed by Brian Arnott. He completed the final year of his degree at Queen's University.

Ondaatje published several books of poetry before The Collected Works of Billy The Kid won the Governor Generalís Award in 1970, and was subsequently adapted for theatre and played at the Stratford Festival (among many other companies) in 1973. An adaptation of his work Coming Through Slaughter was presented at Theatre Passe Muraille in January, 1980, directed by Paul Thompson; later revived by Necessary Angel and directed by Richard Rose.

Working with Daniel Brooks, he adapted his 2007 novel, Divisadero for theatre (Necessary Angel, 2011, dir. Brooks).

Ondaatje has also been involved in film, documenting the creation of Theatre Passe Muraille's The Farm Show called The Clinton Special.

He has won many awards for poetry and fiction including the Booker Prize for The English Patient (1992), becoming the first Canadian to win the award. He is probably best known world-wide for The English Patient, which was adapted into a multi-award-winning movie.

Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto with his wife, novelist Linda Spalding, and teaches at York University. He also serves on the board of Coach House Books.

Profile by Gaetan Charlebois and Anne Nothof. Additional information provided by Robin Lobb and Brian Arnott.

Last updated 2021-03-02