The English Patient

The Poetics of The English Patient: From the White Page to the Silver Screen

The English Patient has been referred to as "a poem disguised as a novel." Much emphasis is directed toward Michael Ondaatje's language, which "takes center stage, gliding and soaring, drifting into the hidden rooms of his character's souls, striking dissonant chords, floating above destinies with Godlike power in one sentence, burrowing into the muddy terror of a bomb crater in the next." The beauty of Ondaatje's novel does not arise from its plot, nor from its characterizations, the intricacies of its settings, or the exuberance of Ondaatje's storytelling. Instead, the artistry and power of his tale arise from his careful use of language: the tropes, metonymy, magically fluid prose, and striking imagery evoked from his placement of the Word. The language of The English Patient is the heart that pumps blood through the novel's spine, without which all the life that teems in the book would die. Anthony Minghella's film adaptation of The English Patient also brings to mind poetry, but through the visual medium of film. Through use of symbolic imagery and visual signifiers, Minghella conjures up themes resonant with meaning and universality. The film version of The English Patient is,...

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