Deadline for submitting abstracts: Monday, August 2, 2021.
Name of Organization: Rising Asia Foundation and Rising Asia Journal. www.rajraf.org
Contact emails: email@example.com
Submissions are invited for the “Asian Literatures in Motion” Conference on Michael Ondaatje’s works. Papers should focus on the themes emerging from Ondaatje’s fiction and poetry, with appropriate theoretical underpinnings on the following broad topics:
Please submit your 300 word abstracts (along with a 200 word resume citing education, publications and research interests) by August 1, 2021 by email to: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com mentioning “Asian Literatures in Motion” in the subject line.
Each paper presenter should speak for about 20 minutes, after which there will be a discussion and questions.
Final papers will be considered for publication in the Rising Asia Journal. Please see: www.rajraf.org
The Sri Lankan-Canadian writer and poet, Michael Ondaatje, was born on September 12, 1943, in Colombo, Ceylon, now Sri Lanka. Ondaatje immigrated to Montreal when he was nineteen and received a B.A. in English from the University of Toronto in 1965 and an M.A. from Queen’s University in 1967.
Ondaatje crafts his works from a rich blend of myth, history, jazz, memoirs, and other forms. His first collection of poetry, The Dainty Monsters (1967), is a series of lyrics that blend everyday life with mythology. Then came his long poem, The Man with Seven Toes (1969), in which Ondaatje uses the fragments of myth, built upon gossip and marginal to orthodox history, to create a raw landscape of bodies blurred between unity and disunity. Ondaatje’s fascination with the folklore of the American West led to one of his most celebrated works, the 1970 pastiche The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems. Sometimes described as a parable of the artist as outlaw, the work contains poems, prose, photographs, interviews, and even comic books, which combine to create a discourse on the nature of heroism and violence. His poetry volume, Rat Jelly (1973), is a transitional work that consolidates the early promise and achievement of The Dainty Monsters. Secular Love (1984) is a poetic meditation on the breakup of his marriage. His other poetry collections are The Cinnamon Peeler (1989) and Handwriting: Poems (1998). More recently, he returned to poetry with the publication of his long poem, The Story (2005).
Ondaatje’s prose works are better known than his poetry. They include Coming Through Slaughter (1976), a novel about the descent into insanity of the New Orleans jazz musician Buddy Bolden; Running in the Family (1982), his memoir about life in Ceylon; and In the Skin of a Lion (1987), a novel about the clash between rich and poor in early 20th-century Toronto. Two characters from this novel, Hana and Caravaggio, also appear in The English Patient (1992; film 1996), which takes place in an Italian villa that is being used as a hospital during the Second World War. The English Patient was co-winner of the Booker Prize in 1992. Subsequent novels include Anil’s Ghost (2000), set in Sri Lanka amid the political violence of the 1980s and 1990s, and Divisadero (2007). The Cat’s Table (2011), its title making a reference to the table farthest from the captain’s table on a cruise ship, describes a voyage from Sri Lanka to England in the 1950s from the perspective of an 11-year-old boy and his two comrades. In Warlight (2018) a teenage boy and his sister are left with two mysterious men when their parents move to Singapore after the Second World War.
Ondaatje is perhaps one of Canada’s most influential contemporary writers and one of the country’s biggest cultural exports. He is best known as a novelist partly due to the phenomenal success of The English Patient and Anil’s Ghost, but he first achieved critical acclaim as a poet. In the end, Ondaatje is best understood not as poet or novelist, but as an artist who has explored the very limits of these genres.