A Conversation with Michael Ondaatje
Hosted by Critic's Choice lecturer Elaine Newton
Artis—Naples Lifelong Learning
Michael Ondaatje, author
Elaine Newton, Ph.D., Professor Emeritus of Humanities at York University, Toronto
Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient and other award-winning novels and poetry collections, sits down with Elaine in this enlightening discussion about his career and his new novel, Warlight.
Michael Ondaatje is one of the world’s foremost writers; his artistry and aesthetic have influenced an entire generation of writers and readers. In 2018, Ondaatje’s transcendent novel The English Patient was awarded the Golden Man Booker Prize, a special award given only one time on the 50th anniversary of the Man Booker Prize for a novel previously awarded the prestigious Man Booker Prize. The English Patient explores the stories of people history fails to reveal by intersecting four diverse lives at the end of World War II. This bestselling novel was later made into an Academy Award-winning film.
Although he is now best known as a novelist, Ondaatje’s work also encompasses poetry, memoir and film, and reveals a passion for defying conventional form.
Ondaatje himself is an interesting intersection of cultures. Born in Sri Lanka, he went to school in England, and then moved to Canada. He is now a Canadian citizen. From his Governor-General’s Award-winning book of poetry, There’s a Trick With a Knife I’m Learning To Do, to his classic novel, The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje casts a spell over his readers.
Elaine Newton, Ph.D., is Professor Emeritus of Humanities at York University, Toronto, Canada. She has taught courses in literary theory and methodology, contemporary fiction, psychology and literature and archetypal criticism. Professor Newton was one of the founders of York University’s Advising Program and its much-emulated Faculty of Education. She is a recipient of the province of Ontario’s Teaching Award in recognition of excellence in university teaching and in 1984 received a citation as Toronto’s Outstanding Professor. In 1996 she was the recipient of the university-wide Teaching Award. She has held appointments as professor of literature at Carlton University, Ottawa; University of Cape Town, South Africa; University of Sydney, Australia; Victoria University and the University of Otago, New Zealand. She has lectured throughout Canada and the US, London, Hong Kong, Zurich and Caracas. In 1992 she was a member of the faculty of the University of Pittsburgh’s Semester-at-Sea.
For over 40 years she has planned and conducted adult education courses throughout North America. This is the 26th year that she has presented our literature series Critic’s Choice and the 20th year she has presented Four O’clock at the Movies. She also initiated and taught, for 11 years, the pioneering Artis—Naples seminar discussion program The Questers. Newton has worked as a book critic for Toronto’s The Globe and Mail, been a special consultant to the Ontario Library Association, led movie and theater discussions and served as a consultant to the North York Board of Education. She continues to conduct an annual lecture series at the Toronto Public Library and leads summer tours to Stratford and Niagara-on-the-Lake Theatre Festivals. Professor Newton has served as a programming resource specialist for Chapters (Canada) and makes frequent guest appearances on TV and radio.