Michael Ondaatje's Relationship with his Father in his Work, Running in the Family

Michael Ondaatje's Relationship with his Father in his Work, Running in the Family

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Michael Ondaatje's Relationship with his Father in his Work, Running in the Family


The jacket description embossed on the back cover of the Vintage publication of Michael Ondaatje's Running in the Family gives the reader a false sense of what the book is about. To some it is a "lyrical and witty" tale of "broken engagements, and drunken suicide attempts," and to some it may be "an inspired marriage of travel narrative and family memoir" (jacket). The front cover, however, provides the most valuable information about the book. It is a detail from Paul Gauguin painting of a man walking through a tamed arboreal area. A scene from a tropical countryside the colors are bright and vibrant; off to the left side is a small hut. Gaugiun was a post-Impressionistic painter who stressed feeling over realism; it was the sole intent of the artist to catch the emotion of the moment. Thus, emotion appears to be the driving force of Running in the Family. The book is a series of anecdotes and "gesture[s]" as Ondaatje labels his construction of plot (206). Ondaatje records events as they are told to him, exaggerated by the storytellers and distorted by time, and further transformed through his transcription good. Interestingly, it is his father, Mervyn Ondaatje, and not Michael Ondaatje himself, who captures most of the attention in Running in the Family. Of this, literary critic and professor Winfried Siemerling states, "the connection between the self and the other is directly patronymic in Running in the Family … the book can be read as a biography. Representing the story of Mervyn Ondaatje through the eyes of his son Michael, however, the biography is, at the same time, autobiography." Ref This a convention which mayead the reader to surm...


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...needed to find him in one form or another" (Jewinski, 13). Ondaatje's avoidance of explanation is renown, as Douglas Barbour offers in his critical essay of Running in the Family, " rather than explanation, Ondaatje's texts seek to create a sensual and emotional awareness of the other's living" (packet 124). But what Ondaatje doesn't explicitly express, he weaves into his text, creating that "sensual and emotional awareness," allowing his readers to step into the life of his father, and along with Ondaatje, forgive.

Works Cited

Barbour, Douglass. "From: 'Michael Ondaatje'." Waddington Packet, 2001.

Jewinski, Ed. Michael Ondaatje: Express Yourself Beautifully. Toronto ECW Press, 1994.

Ondaatje, Michael. Running in the Family. Vintage Books, New York, 1993.

Siemerling, Winfried. Discoveries of the Other. Toronto, University of Toronto Press Inc., 1994.

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