Dear Michael Ondaatje:
Where have you been all my life?
Besides, you know, everywhere?
I finished reading The English Patient last night, and my heart swelled on the last lines of the book.
I know. "Heart swelled." What a cliche. You would never write such a thing, Mr. Ondaatje, you Important Male Author you. You would write a sentence that was somehow upside down and sideways, perfect in its poetry, utterly clear in its purpose, absolutely not showy but completely powerful.
You would write dialogue that is at once shadowy and real. Something like this, perhaps:
"You've tied yourself to a corpse for some reason."
"He is a saint. I think. A despairing saint. Are there such things? Our desire is to protect them."
"He doesn't even care!"
"I can love him."
"A twenty-year-old who throws herself out of the world to love a ghost!" (p. 45)
You would also write a sentence as pure and simple as this: Madox died because of nations. (p. 138) And that would honestly not read as silly or even all that simple in the context of a book that is about everything from love to war to tenderness to harsh realism. A book about racism and nationalism and internationalism and lives that shouldn't be so territorial.
Thank you, Sir. Thank you for a book with an ending so symmetrical I don't want to ruin it for anyone else. For a book so good I can't wait to read another. And for fascinating studies in character, of the Girl Alone and the Boy Curious and the Man Erased and the Man Borderless.