Goodreads helps you follow your favorite authors. Be the first to learn about new releases!
Start by following Michael Ondaatje.

Michael Ondaatje Michael Ondaatje > Quotes


Michael Ondaatje quotes (showing 1-30 of 253)

“She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“We die containing a richness of lovers and tribes, tastes we have swallowed, bodies we have plunged into and swum up as if rivers of wisdom, characters we have climbed into as if trees, fears we have hidden in as if caves.

I wish for all this to be marked on by body when I am dead. I believe in such cartography - to be marked by nature, not just to label ourselves on a map like the names of rich men and women on buildings. We are communal histories, communal books. We are not owned or monogamous in our taste or experience.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“You think that you are an iconoclast, but you’re not. You just move, or replace what you cannot have. If you fail at something, you retreat into something else. Nothing changes you.... I left you because I knew I could never change you. You would stand in the room so still sometimes, as if the greatest betrayal of yourself would be to reveal one more inch of your character.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“All I ever wanted was a world without maps.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“Her life with others no longer interests him. He wants only her stalking beauty, her theatre of expressions. He wants the minute secret reflection between them, the depth of field minimal, their foreignness intimate like two pages of a closed book.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“I believe this. When we meet those we fall in love with, there is an aspect of our spirit that is historian, a bit of a pedant who reminisces or remembers a meeting when the other has passed by innocently…but all parts of the body must be ready for the other, all atoms must jump in one direction for desire to occur.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
tags: love
“We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to untie.”
Michael Ondaatje, The Cat's Table
“There are betrayals in war that are childlike compared with our human betrayals during peace. The new lovers enter the habits of the other. Things are smashed, revealed in a new light. This is done with nervous or tender sentences, although the heart is an organ of fire.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
tags: love, war
“...the heart is an organ of fire.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“From this point on, she whispered, we will either find or lose our souls.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“Her hand touched me at the wrist. "If I gave you my life, you would drop it. Wouldn't you?"

I didn't say anything.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“If I were a cinnamon peeler
I would ride your bed
and leave the yellow bark dust
on your pillow.

Your breasts and shoulders would reek
you could never walk through markets
without the profession of my fingers
floating over you. The blind would
stumble certain of whom they approached
though you might bathe
under rain gutters, monsoon.

Here on the upper thigh
at this smooth pasture
neighbor to your hair
or the crease
that cuts your back. This ankle.
You will be known among strangers
as the cinnamon peeler's wife.

I could hardly glance at you
before marriage
never touch you
-- your keen nosed mother, your rough brothers.
I buried my hands
in saffron, disguised them
over smoking tar,
helped the honey gatherers...

When we swam once
I touched you in water
and our bodies remained free,
you could hold me and be blind of smell.
You climbed the bank and said


this is how you touch other women
the grasscutter's wife, the lime burner's daughter.

And you searched your arms

for the missing perfume.

and knew
what good is it
to be the lime burner's daughter

left with no trace

as if not spoken to in an act of love

as if wounded without the pleasure of scar.


You touched
your belly to my hands
in the dry air and said
I am the cinnamon
peeler's wife. Smell me.”
Michael Ondaatje, The Cinnamon Peeler: Selected Poems
“She had grown older. And he loved her more now than he had loved her when he understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
tags: love
“She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“Moments before sleep are when she feels most alive, leaping across fragments of the day, bringing each moment into the bed with her like a child with schoolbooks and pencils. The day seems to have no order until these times, which are like a ledger for her, her body full of stories and situations.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“She is a woman of honour and smartness whose wild leaves out luck, always taking risks, and there is something in her brow now, that only she can recognize in a mirror. Ideal and idealistic in that shiny dark hair! People fall in love with her. She is a woman I don’t know well enough to hold in my wing, if writers have wings, to harbour for the rest of my life.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“I have spent weeks in the desert, forgetting to look at the moon, he says, as a married man may spend days never looking into the face of his wife. These are not sins of omission but signs of pre-occuopation.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“A love story is not about those who lost their heart but about those who find that sullen inhabitant who, when it is stumbled upon, means the body can fool no one, can fool nothing—not the wisdom of sleep or the habit of social graces. It is a consuming of oneself and the past.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“This last night we tear into each other, as if to wound, as if to find the key to everything before morning.”
Michael Ondaatje, Coming Through Slaughter
“For we live with those retrievals from childhood that coalesce and echo throughout our lives, the way shattered pieces of glass in a kaleidoscope reappear in new forms and are songlike in their refrains and rhymes, making up a single monologue. We live permanently in the recurrence of our own stories, whatever story we tell.”
Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero
tags: life
“I'll be looking at the moon,
but I'll be seeing you.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“...sometimes we enter art to hide within it. It is where we can go to save ourselves, where a third-person voice protects us.”
Michael Ondaatje, Divisadero
“He knows that the only way he can accept losing her is if he can continue to hold her or be held by her. If they can somehow nurse each other out of this. Not with a wall.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
tags: loss, love
“Everything is biographical, Lucian Freud says. What we make, why it is made, how we draw a dog, who it is we are drawn to, why we cannot forget. Everything is collage, even genetics. There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border we cross.”
Michael Ondaatje
“He has been disassembled by her. And if she has brought him to this, what has he brought her to?”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“What he would say, he cannot say to this woman whose openness is like a wound, whose youth is not mortal yet. He cannot alter what he loves most in her, her lack of compromise, where the romance of the poems she loves still sits with ease in the real world. Outside these qualities he knows there is no order in the world.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
tags: love
“A postcard. Neat handwriting fills the rectangle.

Half my days I cannot bear to touch you.
The rest of my time I feel like it doesn’t matter if I will ever see you again. It isn’t the morality, it’s how much you can bear.

No date. No name attached.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“Don’t we forgive everything of a lover? We forgive selfishness, desire, guile. As long as we are the motive for it.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
tags: love
“You have to protect yourself from sadness. Sadness is very close to hate. Let me tell you this. This is the thing I learned. If you take in someone else's poison – thinking you can cure them by sharing it – you will instead store it within you. Those men in the desert were smarter than you. They assumed he could be useful. So they saved him, but when he was no longer useful they left him.”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient
“You built your walls too, she tells him. So I have my wall. She says it glittering in a beauty he cannot stand. She with her beautiful clothes with her pale face that laughs at everyone who smiles at her...”
Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient

« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9

All Quotes | Add A Quote
Play The 'Guess That Quote' Game

The English Patient The English Patient
71,065 ratings
The Cat's Table The Cat's Table
16,194 ratings
In the Skin of a Lion In the Skin of a Lion
9,233 ratings
Anil's Ghost Anil's Ghost
9,714 ratings