While not his most famous literary achievement, Michael Ondaatje is money in the bank when it comes to beautiful prose regardless of the work you’re reading. The selection below is from Coming Through Slaughter, Ondaatje’s debut work of fiction about legendary cornet player Buddy Bolden, and the same book that would go on to win Amazon.ca’s First Novel Award for 1976.
In a week marred (yes, marred) by Nobelgate, it still confounds me that Mr. Ondaatje has (a) not won a Nobel Prize in Literature to date, and (b) wasn’t even in the running this year. (According to an article by Russell Smith in last week’s Globe and Mail, “The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami was the leader at 4/1, followed by people such as Syrian poet Adonis, Kenyan Ngugi wa Thiong’o and Albanian Ismail Kadare. The only American writers who were considered even a possibility were the cerebral and serious Philip Roth and Don de Lillo.”)
But without further ado, here’s just one example (among thousands) of how Michel Ondaatje bends the English language to his will, effortlessly, it seems, in ways mere mortals like myself could never hope to accomplish.
“Accidental lust on the bus carrying her new into his dead brain so even months later, years later, pieces of her body and character returned. What he wanted was cruel, pure relationship.”