Identity and War in Michael Ondaatje’s

The English Patient


Lucian Blaga University of Sibiu


This paper addresses the issue of identity in relation to war through a close reading of Michael Ondaatje’s The English Patient. It investigates the connections between war and the construction of identity, focusing on aspects such as violence and death. In his novel Ondaatje uncovers private histories alongside the framing events of World War Two. Kip’s perception of war and his way of living through it suggest that the engagement on the world’s battlefield is riddled with inner conflicts separating people or bringing them together. In The English Patient what is at issue is the quest for a redefinition of the self: Hanna, Kirpal Singh and Almásy attempt to liberate the self through an investigation of the past. Thus, the novel problematizes the convolutions of human interaction zooming in on ideas of movement and metamorphosis as thematized in the war plot, functioning as the fundamental mechanisms that shape identity.

Keywords: Michael Ondaatje, The English Patient, Paul Ricoeur, identity, war, death, oneself, the other, memory, time, history