The English Patient

Being the books-turned-into-movies fanatic that I am, I had to read The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. In case you haven’t seen the movie, it takes place in the last stages of World War II and is about a Canadian nurse staying in a deserted village in Italy caring for a critically burned mystery man. He is known only as “the English patient”. Along comes Caravaggio, an old family friend of Hana’s, who is revealed to be a thief turned spy. Then Kip enters the scene, and he is a Sikh sapper who feels unwelcome everywhere because of his race. The only Englishman whom he ever felt any connection to was killed while dismantling a German bomb.

What I found most interesting about the characters in this novel was how they all seemed to have lost their identities – not just the English patient. I suppose I can relate most to Kip though, because his identity loss stems from having left his home country and coming to the West, where he is constantly underestimated and unwelcome.

At the same time it seems as if the English patient is the only one who is surest of his own identity even if it’s lost. Perhaps because he willingly shed his identity and nationality? Anyway I can’t imagine not feeling tied to a country; especially in a case of wartime in which nationalities and solidarity of nations were at their utmost importance! I’m not sure how I feel about his actions but I also don’t feel that he was necessarily guilty of anything but adultery.

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