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Michael Ondaatje (1943-       )

Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka when it was known as Ceylon, moved to England in 1954 and then to Canada in 1962, where he acquired his B.A. at the University of Toronto and an M.A. at Queen's. After a brief teaching stint at the University Of Western Ontario he joined the Department of English of Glendon College, York University in 1971. His first real showing came in the Raymond Souster/ Contact Press anthology New Wave Canada (1966). That auspicious debut was followed by The dainty monsters (1967), The man with seven toes (1969), The collected works of Billy the Kid (1970), Rat jelly (1973), Coming through slaughter (1976), Elimination Dance (1976), There's a trick with a knife I'm learning to do (1979), Tin roof (1982), Secular love (1984), The cinnamon pealers (1992) and Handwriting (1998). He has also edited a number of anthologies, including The broken ark: A book of beasts (1971), The Long Poem Anthology (1979), From Ink Lake: Canadian stories (1991), and The Brick Reader (1991). His memoir of early life in Ceylon, Running in the family, appeared in 1982. In 1970 Ondaatje published a critical work, Leonard Cohen and a selection of stories by four Canadian fiction writers: Alice Munro, Rudy Wiebe, Audrey Thomas and Clarke Blaise called Personal fictions. He also completed four independent films: Sons of Captain Poetry on the young bpNichol and his contemporaries, The Clinton Special based on Paul Thomson and Theatre Passe Muraille's collective theatrical production of The farm show, Carry on Crime and Punishment and Training Beth Harmon.

      Ondaatje was involved with Coach House Press from its formative days, initially as one of its stable of authors and a casual consultant; then, between 1976 and the early 1990s as an active member of its editorial board. He was also instrumental in the founding of Brick, a kind of erudite family literary journal edited by his second wife Linda Spalding and her daughter Esta. Ondaatje also serves on the advisory committee for the prestigious Griffin Poetry Prize.

      His third novel (some consider Billy the Kid a hybrid) was In the skin of a lion (1987). His next novel, The English Patient (1991) shared the prestigious Booker Prize and was eventually made into an Academy Award winning motion picture in 1996. Anil's Ghost (1999) was Ondaatje's third book to share a major literary prize (the Giller) with another author.