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Michael Ondaatje - Biography


Michael Ondaatje was born on September 12, 1943 in Colombo, Ceylon (now Sri Lanka), the son of Mervyn Ondaatje and Doris Gratiaen.

Ondaatje was educated initially at St. Thomas' College in Colombo, Ceylon. After moving with his mother to England in 1954, he continued his education at Dulwich College in London. Between 1962-64, Ondaatje attended Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec. He then went on to obtain his B.A. at the University of Toronto in 1965, and his M.A. at Queen's University, in Kingston, Ontario, in 1967. Ondaatje began his teaching career at the University of Western Ontario, London, between 1967-71. Today he is a member of the Department of English at Glendon College, York University in Toronto, Ontario, a position he has held since 1971.

Ondaatje currently resides in Toronto with his wife, novelist/editor Linda Spalding, where they edit Literary Magazine. During his career Ondaatje has received numerous awards and honours. He has been awarded the Ralph Gustafson Award (1965); the Epstein Award (1966); and the President's Medal from the University of Ontario in 1967. In addition, Ondaatje was the recipient of the Canadian Governor-General's Award for Literature in 1971 and again in 1980. Also in 1980 he was awarded the Canada-Australia prize and in 1992 he was presented with the Booker McConnell Prize for his novel The English Patient.

While the setting of The English Patient is far removed from the green lusciousness of the Sri Lankan landscape, Ondaatje's poetry as in The Cinnamon Peeler and his celebrated return to his home country in the novel Running in the Family convey his strong sense of love and longing for the "tropical paradise".

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