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Michael Ondaatje (CA)

Year of Last Things, A

Year of Last Things, A

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One of the Globe and Mail's most anticipated books of 2024

With A Year of Last Things, acclaimed novelist Michael Ondaatje returns to poetry, where he began his career over fifty years ago, and what a return it is.

Born in Sri Lanka during the Second World War, Ondaatje was sent as a child to school in London, and later moved to Canada. While he has lived here since, these poems reflect the life of a writer, traveller and watcher of the world – describing himself as a “mongrel,” someone born out of diverse cultures. Here, rediscovering the influence of every border crossed, he moves back and forth in time, from a childhood in Sri Lanka to Moliere’s chair during his last stage performance, from icons in Bulgarian churches to the California coast and loved Canadian rivers, merging memory with the present, looking back on a life of displacement and discovery, love and loss. At first sight it is a glittering collection of fragments and memories – but small, intricate pieces of a life are precisely what matter most to Ondaatje.  They make an emotional history. As he writes in the opening poem: “Reading the lines he loves / he slips them into a pocket, / wishes to die with his clothes / full of torn free stanzas / and the telephone numbers / of his children in far cities”.  Poetry – where language is made to work hardest and burns with a gem-like flame – is what Ondaatje has returned to in this intimate history.

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MICHAEL ONDAATJE is the author of seven novels, a memoir, Running in the Family,  a nonfiction book on film, The Conversations: Walter Murch and the Art of Editing Film, and several books of poetry, including The Cinnamon Peeler and Handwriting. Among other accolades, The English Patient received the Booker Prize in 1992 and the Golden Man Booker in 2018, and was made into a film by Anthony Minghella; Anil’s Ghost was awarded the Giller Prize, the Irish Times International Fiction Prize, and the Prix Médicis. Born in Sri Lanka, Michael Ondaatje lives in Toronto.

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