I’ve been reading Ondaatje’s The English Patient and am on the home stretch, with about 30 pages to go.
While I was reading I was compelled to write down two quotes, two passages that gave me word-gasms. I wanted to share them, because it’s the kind of writing that makes me want to write. If you haven’t read The English Patient, don’t worry, there aren’t any spoilers:
“Her life with others no longer interests him. He wants only her stalking beauty, her theatre of expressions. He wants the minute and secret reflection between them, the depth of field minimal, their foreignness intimate like two pages of a closed book.”
Holy shit. ‘Like two pages of a closed book’. Amazing, amirite?
Here’s the second one:
“At night, when she lets her hair free, he is once more another constellation, the arms of a thousand equators against his pillow, waves of it between them in their embrace and in their turns of sleep. She holds an Indian Goddess in her arms, she holds wheat and ribbons. As he bends over her it pours. She can tie it against her wrist. As he moves she keeps her eyes open to witness the gnats of electricity in his hair in the darkness of the tent.”
There’s something about the imagery in this one, the constellations, the equators, the wheat and ribbons, the gnats of electricity – Ondaatje, you poet, how do you do it?
I love both these pieces of writing. Is one better than the other? I can’t tell. Why? I don’t know. I just know that when I first read them, things were beautiful.