Main content

Michael Ondaatje - The English Patient

Michael Ondaatje talks about his 1992 Booker prize-winning novel The English Patient. James Naughtie presents.

Canadian writer Michael Ondaatje talks to James Naughtie and readers about his 1992 Booker prize-winning novel The English Patient.

The novel tells the story of the entanglement of four damaged lives in an Italian villa as the Second World War ends. The exhausted nurse Hana, the maimed thief Caravaggio, the bomb disposal expert Kip who are each haunted by the riddle of the English patient, the nameless burns victim who lies in an upstairs room.

As well as the mystery of the patient, the novel weaves two love stories - one from the past in pre-war Cairo, the other in the Italian villa.

Noted for his lyrical prose, Michael Ondaatje talks about his love of poetry, how the characters of Hana and Caravaggio haunted him so much from a previous novel - In the Skin of a Lion - that he brought them back to appear in The English Patient. He also describes his painstaking method of writing a novel - by longhand in notebooks.

September's Bookclub choice : The Island by Victoria Hislop

Producer : Dymphna Flynn.

Available now

28 minutes

Broadcasts

Bookclub at 20

Sebastian Faulks, Naomi Alderman and more select favourite editions of the programme

Quiz – The Handmaid's Tale

Twenty questions to test your knowledge of Margaret Atwood's famous novel.

Explore James Naughtie's picks from 200 editions

A treasure trove of the 20th and 21st Century’s great writers discussing their work

Sample our books and authors Clip Collection

Interviews, previews and reviews

Books website

Get closer to books with in-depth articles, quizzes and our picks from radio & TV.

Short stories to keep

The fiction podcast featuring the best stories from the UK's finest writers

Podcast