Harry Ransom Center acquires archives of Michael Ondaatje

Anna Lassmann

The Harry Ransom Center recently acquired the archives of Michael Ondaatje, a Canadian poet and novelist best known for writing “The English Patient.”

“The English Patient” received the Booker Prize for Fiction in 1992 and was later adapted into an Academy Award-winning movie. Ondaatje’s poetry, including “The Collected Works of Billy the Kid: Left-Handed Poems,” has also received critical acclaim.

The pieces the Ransom Center received include research notes, handwritten notebooks, pictures, manuscripts, address books, Canadian literary journals, correspondence between other authors and audio recordings of Ondaatje.

“Michael Ondaatje composed his novels in longhand in bound notebooks, and these multiple drafts provide evidence of the many creative choices he made in the process of composing these,” said Stephen Enniss, director of the Harry Ransom Center.

The archive will be available for research and teaching once it is processed and cataloged.

“Anyone undertaking a study of Ondaatje’s work would benefit enormously from time with his papers,” Enniss said. “We believe there will be research interest in his work for many years to come and that the archive will attract international researchers to Austin.”

English professor Coleman Hutchison said Ondaatje is unique in his diverse talents. Coleman said he plans to access the archives of Ondaatje in both his research and teaching.

“I have peppered his poetry through everything I teach,” Hutchison said. “I think he’s equally gifted in writing poetry and fiction.”

Hutchinson said the acquisition of Ondaatje’s archives is wonderful because he is a meticulous writer and offers a unique perspective within his narratives.

“I think one of the most compelling things about Ondaatje is his background because he brings a cosmopolitan worldview into stories and poetry about people moving across time and space and finding themselves in new and strange places and seeing what happens when people and cultures arise and convert,” Hutchison said.

Michael-Gabriel Asperas, a marketing sophomore who has visited the Ransom Center with his British literature class, said the center is a useful resource.

“(The Ransom Center) is a great resource on campus, and it’s wonderful to be able to have access to old documents and records that are generally hard to find and understand,” Asperas said.