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The English Patient
Literapedia Book Notes for
The English Patient
by Michael Ondaatje
(ch 1)— the daughter of Patrick, Kip's lover, a World War II nurse who stayed behind in the villa in Italy after the war ended to care for the English patient (Almasy).
(ch #)—Hana's father, the news of his death during the war sparked Hana's breakdown, died in a dove-cot.
(ch #)—Hana's stepmother.
Almasy/The English Patient
(ch 1)—a desert guide working for the Germans during the war, obsessed with the desert and lack of nationalities, part of the team mapping the African deserts and searching for a lost oasis, fell from his burning plane while trying to escape from the desert.
(ch 4)—the wife of Geoffrey Clifton, Almasy's lover who travels to Cairo with the team.
(ch 4)—the husband of Katherine, part of the British team mapping the North African desert, is revealed to be working for British Intelligence as an aerial photographer.
(ch 4)—Almasy's best friend, another explorer of the team, works with the Geographical Society, carries a copy of
much like Almasy carries his
(ch 2)—a young sikh, Hana's lover, a sapper who once defused bombs for the British in World War II under Lord Suffolk.
(ch #)—trained an elite squad of men to defuse bombs, took on Kip as his surrogate son and star pupil, died defusing a new bomb.
(ch 2)—a great friend of Hana's father, a thief who worked for the British during the war and had his thumbs cut off when caught on a job, intent on discovering the English patient's true identity.
Hana, the Villa San Girolamo, and the English patient are introduced as Hana cares for his burns. Almasy describes his fall from a burning plane and how the Bedouin tribe that found him cared for his burns. Hana's "desertion" of the other nurses to remain with Almasy is described. Hana often reads to Almasy, sometimes from the books in the villa, sometimes from Almasy's copy of Herodotus'
which contains the English patient's journal entries. Almasy's skills as a chartographer are described. The English tells of why the Bedouins took such good care of him; so he could help them identify guns they had come across.
2. In Near Ruins
Caravaggio is introduced and his character during his stay in the mnilitary hospital in Rome is described. He overhears two doctors discussing Hana and immediately sets out to find her. Caravaggio describes the incident leading to the loss of his thumbs. Hana discusses her breakdown concerning the news of her father's death. Hana's background as a nurse is described including her haircut, her detached manner towards patients to avoid shellshock, and finally, her decision to remain behind in the villa with the English patient. Later, two soldiers enter the library as Hana plays the piano.
3. Sometime a Fire
Kip, one of the soldiers in the library, is introduced. Kip sets up a camp outside the villa and begins to clear the area of mines. Hana discusses with Caravaggio her abortion, her lack of emotion towards patients, and her stance on death. Kip and Almasy discover that they get along well, discussing bombs and weapons. Almasy's trip to Italy from the Bedouins is described. Hana helps Kip to difuse a bomb and begins her relationship with Kip. Hana, Kip, Caravaggio and the English patient have a party in Almasy's room which is interrupted by the explosion of a mine which killed a sapper. Caravaggio expresses his annoyance at Hana's love for the English patient. Hana sneaks into Kip's tent for the first time.
4. South Cairo 1930-1938
The history of the desert as pertains to the attention the rest of the world gives it. The English patient tells Hana about his involvement in mapping the desert. Almasy discusses his first journey in 1930 which was interrupted by massive sandstorms. Almasy's obsession with lack on individuality, nationality, labels, and love of the desert are introduced. Geoffrey and Katherine Clifton are introduced as well as Madox and their mission to find Zerzura in the GIlf Kebir. Almasy describes how he fell in love with Katherine's voice.
Katherine dreams of Almasy, yet she can't stand his politeness. Katherine and Almasy begin their affaire. Katherine repeatedly beats Almasy in private and in public, barely acknowledges him. The affair is described. Almasy and Katherine end their affair because Katherine claims Geoffrey will go mad if he learns of it.
6. A Buried Plane
Almasy talks about his affair with Katherine, again. Almasy has a strange obsession with the hollow at the base of a woman's neck. Caravaggio expresses to Hana his suspicions concerning the English patient, stating that he thinks he is Almasy, a guide across the deserts to Cairo for German spies during the war.Caravaggio tells the story of Almasy: the
code, his ability to sound English, his affiliation with General Rommel. Caravaggio drugs the English patient up on more morphine than usual and tries to pry details out of him. The English patient discusses events leading up to the crash; his truck exploding, the buried plane, the cave where Katherine had stayed while wounded. Later he goes into more details about how Katherine was wounded in a plane crash that killed Geoffrey (suicide), and then was left in the cave by Almasy as he went in search of help. Katherine had been in the cave, dead, for three years before Almasy could return. Once he returned, Almasy uncovered the plane and loaded Katherine and himself in. A spark lit the oil in the plane and then entire thing went up in flames. Almasy parachuted to the ground, on fire, and was rescued by the Bedouins.
7. In Situ
Kip catches a fuse box Caravaggio nudged. Kip tells the story of the time he defused a giant bomb in a pit, focusing on the one mistake he made. Kip tells Hana about his brother who said that Kip was foolish to work for the British during the war. Hana and Kip play a version of hide-and-go-seek.
8. The Holy Forest
The English patient discusses the first time he saw Katherine and his initial dislike of her. Katherine's relationship with her husband is described. Almasy's unwillingness to assume an identity or labels frustrated Katherine. Almasy's relationship with Madox is described, Madox being the more sentimental and descriptive of the two. Madox's suicide in church is described. Caravaggio drugs the English patient again and they discuss what deterred him from returning to Katherine for three years. Caravaggio is now sure that the English patient is Almasy and reveals that he worked for British Intelligence and that they knew of the affair and believed Geoffrey's death to be suspicious and in some way linked to Almasy. Caravaggio said Almasy had been tracked ever since he first began his affair with Katherine. Almasy describes the plane crash that killed Geoffrey and wounded Katherine.
9. The Cave of Swimmers
Almasy describes Katherine, her relationship with her husband, and how he himself fell in love with her. Almasy's
is compared to Madox's
. Almasy tells Caravaggio of Katherine's reading of Gyges from
. Madox and Almasy's parting is described as well as Madox's death. Almasy tells more stories concerning Katherine including one time he was drunk and dancing with her and then concerning the Cave of Swimmers in which she was left to die.
Everyone celebrates Hana's 21st birthday. Kip tells Hana stories of his favorite places as well as his arrival in Italy. He discusses clearing a city of mines in a matter of hours, then lying down under an angel in a chapel either to die or sleep. Kip hears a radio broadcast concerning the atomic bomb dropped on Japan. Kip packs up his things, destroys all army insignia, and leaves the villa thinking that his brother was right in not trusting the British/white men who just destroy people of color/asian descent. Hana writes a letter to Clara concerning her father's death. Years later, Kip, now a doctor with a family, thinks of Hana. She used to send him letters, but when he didn't reply, she gave up.
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