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A collection of thoughts and quotations by Michael Ondaatje on words, poems, experience, life, death, loss, love, dreams, heart, sex, art and desire.

76 Great Michael Ondaatje Quotes To Learn From

Quick Facts

Famous As: Canadian poet

Born On: September 12, 1943

Born In: Colombo

Philip Michael Ondaatje is a Sri Lankan-born Canadian filmmaker, editor, novelist and poet. After completing his education in Canada, he became an English teacher at University of West Ontario and later on at York University but it was as a writer that he became famous. Ondaatje is a multi-talented writer and has written several poetry collections; some of the noted ones among which are ‘The Daily Monsters’, ‘The Cinnamon Peeler’, ‘The Story’, ‘Secular Love’ and ‘Rat Jelly’ among many others. On the other hand, he is an extremely talented novelist as well. One of his most famous works as a novelist is ‘The English Patient’, which went on to win the ‘Booker Prize’ and later on was turned into an Academy Award winning movie. Other notable novels by him include ‘Coming Through Slaughter’, ‘The Cat’s Table’ and ‘Anil’s Ghost’ among others. Ondaatje is one of the leading intellectuals of the world and we bring to you a treasure trove of quotes that have been excerpted from his novels, books, poems and writings. Read on to explore a compilation of some of the best known quotes by Michael Ondaatje, covering various aspects of life.
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She had always wanted words, she loved them; grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape.

Michael Ondaatje

We all have an old knot in the heart we wish to untie.

Michael Ondaatje

All I ever wanted was a world without maps.

Michael Ondaatje

...the heart is an organ of fire.

Michael Ondaatje

From this point on, she whispered, we will either find or lose our souls.

Michael Ondaatje

Her hand touched me at the wrist. "If I gave you my life, you would drop it. Wouldn't you?" I didn't say anything.

Michael Ondaatje

She had grown older. And he loved her more now than he had loved her when he understood her better, when she was the product of her parents. What she was now was what she herself had decided to become.

Michael Ondaatje

I have spent weeks in the desert, forgetting to look at the moon, he says, as a married man may spend days never looking into the face of his wife. These are not sins of omission but signs of pre-occuopation.

Michael Ondaatje

I'll be looking at the moon, but I'll be seeing you.

Michael Ondaatje

This last night we tear into each other, as if to wound, as if to find the key to everything before morning.

Michael Ondaatje

...sometimes we enter art to hide within it. It is where we can go to save ourselves, where a third-person voice protects us.

Michael Ondaatje

Every night I cut out my heart. But in the morning it was full again

Michael Ondaatje

He knows that the only way he can accept losing her is if he can continue to hold her or be held by her. If they can somehow nurse each other out of this. Not with a wall.

Michael Ondaatje

Don’t we forgive everything of a lover? We forgive selfishness, desire, guile. As long as we are the motive for it.

Michael Ondaatje

He has been disassembled by her. And if she has brought him to this, what has he brought her to?

Michael Ondaatje

This was the time in her life that she fell upon books as the only door out of her cell. They became half her world.

Michael Ondaatje

You built your walls too, she tells him. So I have my wall. She says it glittering in a beauty he cannot stand. She with her beautiful clothes with her pale face that laughs at everyone who smiles at her...

Michael Ondaatje

For the first forty days a child is given dreams of previous lives. Journeys, winding paths, a hundred small lessons and then the past is erased.

Michael Ondaatje

She had always wanted words, she loved them, grew up on them. Words gave her clarity, brought reason, shape. Whereas I thought words bent emotions like sticks in water.

Michael Ondaatje

A novel is a mirror walking down a road

Michael Ondaatje

Everyone has to scratch on walls somewhere or they go crazy

Michael Ondaatje

Could you fall in love with her if she wasn't smarter than you? I mean, she may not be smarter than you. But isn't it important for you to think she is smarter than you in order to fall in love? Think now.

Michael Ondaatje

What is interesting and important happens mostly in secret, in places where there is no power.

Michael Ondaatje

How does this happen? To fall in love and be disassembled.

Michael Ondaatje

The joyful will stoop with sorrow, and when you have gone to the earth I will let my hair grow long for your sake, I will wander through the wilderness in the skin of a lion

Michael Ondaatje

The trouble with all of us is we are where we shouldn't be.

Michael Ondaatje

For echo is the soul of the voice exciting itself in hollow places.

Michael Ondaatje

I wanted to find one law to cover all of living. I found fear....

Michael Ondaatje

Do you understand the sadness of geography?

Michael Ondaatje

Death means you are in the third person.

Michael Ondaatje

Men had always been the reciters of poetry in the desert.

Michael Ondaatje

All this Beethoven and rain

Michael Ondaatje

All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.

Michael Ondaatje

The first sentence of every novel should be: Trust me, this will take time but there is order here, very faint, very human.

Michael Ondaatje

If she were a writer she would collect her pencils and notebooks and favourite cat and write in bed. Strangers and lovers would never get past the locked door.

Michael Ondaatje

We are expanded by tears, we are told, not reduced by them.

Michael Ondaatje

She had a laugh that hinted it had rolled around once or twice in the mud.

Michael Ondaatje

How can you smile as though your whole life hasn't capsized

Michael Ondaatje

I am not in love with him, I am in love with ghosts. So is he, he's in love with ghosts.

Michael Ondaatje

Love is so small it can tear itself through the eye of a needle

Michael Ondaatje

There is the hidden presence of others in us, even those we have known briefly. We contain them for the rest of our lives, at every border that we cross.

Michael Ondaatje

I want to die on your chest but not yet she wrote sometime in the 13th century of our love

Michael Ondaatje

A blind lover, don't know what I love till I write it out

Michael Ondaatje

Jung was absolutely right about one thing. We are occupied by gods. The mistake is to identify with the god occupying you.

Michael Ondaatje

I am someone who has a cold heart. If I am beside a great grief I throw barriers up so the loss cannot go too deep or too far. There is a wall instantly in place, and it will not fall.

Michael Ondaatje

In the desert the most loved waters, like a lover's name, are carried blue in your hands, enter your throat. One swallows absence.

Michael Ondaatje

Here. Where I am anonymous and alone in a white room with no history and no parading. So I can make something unknown in the shape of this room. Where I am King of Corners.

Michael Ondaatje

-I think you are inhuman. If I leave you, who will you go to? Would you find another lover? I said nothing. -Deny it,damn you!

Michael Ondaatje

... the desert, where there is the communal book of moonlight. We were among the rumour of wells. In the palace of winds.

Michael Ondaatje

Over the years, confusing fragments, lost corners of stories, have a clearer meaning when seen in a new light, a different place.

Michael Ondaatje

As if this collection of things is what she is. So we fall in love with ghosts.

Michael Ondaatje

We own the country we grow up in, or we are aliens and invaders.

Michael Ondaatje

Nowadays he doesn't think of his wife, though he knows he can turn around and evoke every move of her, describe any aspect of her, the weigh of her wrist on his heart during the night.

Michael Ondaatje

Before the real city could be seen it had to be imagined, the way rumours and tall tales were a kind of charting.

Michael Ondaatje

He was a man who wrote, who interpreted the world. Wisdom grew out of being handed just the smallest sliver of emotion. A glance could lead to paragraphs of theory.

Michael Ondaatje

Sleep is a prison for a boy who has friends to meet.

Michael Ondaatje

The trouble with words is that you can really talk yourself into a corner. You can't fuck yourself into a corner. "That's a man talking," muttered Hana.

Michael Ondaatje

Meanwhile with the help of an anecdote I fell in love. Words caravaggio. They have a power.

Michael Ondaatje

Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert.

Michael Ondaatje

He came to this country like a torch on fire and he swallowed air as he walked forward and he gave out light

Michael Ondaatje

Fathers die.You keep on loving them in any way you can.You can't hide him away in your heart.

Michael Ondaatje

So we came to understand that small and important thing, that our lives could be large with interesting strangers who would pass us without any personal involvement.

Michael Ondaatje

He will hear the rain before he feels it, a clicking on the dry grass, on the olive leaves.

Michael Ondaatje

From this point on in our lives, she had whispered to him earlier, we will either find or lose our souls.

Michael Ondaatje

But we were interested in how our lives could mean something to the past. We sailed into the past.

Michael Ondaatje

Come. We must go deeper with no justice and no jokes.

Michael Ondaatje

Seas move away, why not lovers? The harbours of Ephesus, the rivers of Heraclitus disappear and are replaced by estuaries of silt. The wife of Candaules becomes the wife of Gyges. Libraries burn.

Michael Ondaatje

But when we are searching for an example of what we no longer have, we see it everywhere.

Michael Ondaatje

Because we want to know things, how the pieces fit. Talkers seduce, words direct us into corners. We want more than anything to grow and change. Brave new world.

Michael Ondaatje

I went mad before he did, you killed everything in me. Kiss me,will you. Stop defending yourself.

Michael Ondaatje

For when people leave our company in our time we are never certain of seeing them again, or seeing them unaltered.

Michael Ondaatje

Every river they came to was bridge-less, as if its name had been erased, as if the sky were starless, homes doorless.

Michael Ondaatje

But he had a serenity that came with the choice of the life he wanted to live. And this serenity and certainty I have seen only among those who have the armour of books close by.

Michael Ondaatje

Water is the exile, carried back in cans and flasks, the ghost between your hands and your mouth.

Michael Ondaatje

...if you do not plunder the past, the absence feeds on you

Michael Ondaatje

Kirpal’s left hand swoops down and catches the dropped fork an inch from the floor and gently passes it into the fingers of his daughter, a wrinkle at the edge of his eyes behind his spectacles.

Michael Ondaatje