Mike Nyerges's Reviews > The Cat's Table

The Cat's Table by Michael Ondaatje
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's review
Dec 27, 2011

it was amazing
Read from December 27, 2011 to January 11, 2012 — I own a copy

Michael Ondaatje's The Cat's Table is the sort of story that makes your fingers itch to write and capture something of the accidental collisions of your past, those incidents that lie buried and unseen that suddenly rise with a fleeting clarity and purpose that leave you aching for other similar moments. It is a slightly autobiographical story of a man, an author, reassembling a time in the 1950s when he traveled as an eleven year old by sea from his home in Sri Lanka to a home in England, when the innocent physical connections of his world were suspended for a few brief weeks above darker currents. The title refers to the table furthest from the captains' at which the least important travelers are seated. These are the people that the author reconstructs and reexamines, two friends and a small company of adults. Sometimes, the author writes, the full import of some incidental act of the past is only understood much later. But he warns that the reader should not presume to know more than he or those he writes about. Like the work of Mr. Nevil, a retired ship dismantler and a marginal character, the author offers a view of memory having a structure that can be broken, reused, scattered, abandoned and rediscovered. This is a story, stories, that are reconstructions to be savored, and that put the lie to fiction as lacking substance and truth.

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