pico iyer on ondaatje

Quotes from picoiyerjourneys.com

as if to say that the losses and divisions of the present can begin to be healed by looking at a completely different story in the past

The best way to see what Ondaatje is attempting in every novel he writes is to look at the occupations he highlights. // In Divisadero, the two main characters are a historical researcher and a gambler. And this is no stray detail, I think, because the book takes a great gamble itself by attempting to do things with narrative that have seldom been done before (leaving two major stories up in the air, in the hope that they can be imaginatively tied together by a third).

Claire links the main characters to a “three-paneled Japanese screen, each one self-sufficient, but revealing different qualities or tones when placed beside the others”; the word “adjacent” comes up at least three times, as if to suggest how, in bringing two of the characters together, we are implicitly evoking a third.

we are reminded that Ondaatje has always put his faith, more than anything, in the imagination, and the way we have to step away from the world to make it whole again.


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