Literature: The English Patient
All I desired was to walk upon such an earth that had no maps.
—the English Patient
A 1992 novel by Canadian author Michael Ondaatje. The book opens in an abandoned villa in World War II
Italy, where Hana, a Canadian army nurse, cares for a man referred to as the English Patient. He refuses to reveal his identity, but his speech and mannerisms indicate that he's an Englishman (his status as a patient is considerably less ambiguous, given that he's being treated for critical burns all over his body). Hana and the Patient are joined by David Caravaggio, a Canadian thief who knew Hana before the war, and who worked as an Allied spy until he was captured and maimed; and Kip, an Indian Sikh who's one of the best sappers in the British army. The story sprawls out non-linearly
, digging into each character's backstory, with running themes of nationality, nationalism, and the Power of Love
Made into a 1996 movie
directed by Anthony Minghella
. It cast Juliette Binoche
as Hana, Ralph Fiennes
as the "English Patient", Colin Firth
as Geoffrey Clifton, Kristin Scott Thomas as Katharine Clifton, Willem Dafoe
as Caravaggio, and Naveen Andrews
as Kip. The film was a box office hit, earning $231,976,425 in the worldwide market. It has earned the distinguished pop-culture status of being "That movie Elaine bitched about in that one episode of Seinfeld
." Both versions won a bunch of awards, most prominently the 1997 Oscar for Best Picture
Provides examples of
- A Father to His Men: Lord Suffolk. Especially for Kip.
- Anachronic Order
- Neither it is the first time his character wound up in a desert during a major war, as he also played T.E.Lawrence in a TV-movie A Dangerous Man: Lawrence after Arabia.
- Battleaxe Nurse: In Caravaggio's interrogation scene.
- Bedouin Rescue Service: How the Patient survives the plane crash. Not that one, the second one.
- Booby Traps: The villa is full of bombs and mines left by retreating Axis forces.
- Cultured Warrior: Lord Suffolk.
- Cut Himself Shaving: The Patient's excuses for the scars Katharine gives him.
- Deconstruction: The book and movie to a degree deconstruct The Power of Love and identities, including the Patient's rejection of nationalities.
- During the War
- Geeky Turn-On: The Patient realizes he's attracted to Katharine when she reads aloud from Herodotus. Of course, the story she chose to read was rather apropos...
- Heroic BSOD: Kip, towards the end, when he learns about the bombing of Hiroshima. Hana and Kip have slightly toned-down versions in their backstories as well.
- Historical-Domain Character: The Cliftons (Claytons IRL), Almasy, Bagnold (who really did have connections with British intelligence).
- If I Can't Have You: Geoffrey Clifton takes this to an extreme.
- Important Haircut: Hana cuts off her hair shortly after she starts work as an army nurse.
- Interchangeable Asian Cultures: Inverted by Kip, who ultimately (and derisively) considers every white European "English."
- Love Makes You Crazy: Well, everybody involved in the Patient's affair with Katharine was already a little crazy, but their romance pushed things over the edge.
- Love Triangle: The Patient's affair with Katharine Clifton. Either a Type 7, as labeled on the Triang Relations page, or a Type 8.
- Malevolent Architecture: The Villa, in a justified example; the retreating Nazis booby trapped every place they could.
- Murder The Hypotenuse And The Legs: Geoffrey Clifton's solution to the love triangle: attempt to take out the Patient, kamikaze-style, with Katharine aboard the plane.
- Named After Somebody Famous: In-story; "David Caravaggio" is implied to be a pseudonym, which he lampshades, mentioning Caravaggio's painting David with the Head of Goliath.
- Not So Different: By the end Kip realizes that the Patient's worldview is just the same as the very identities he tries to erase.
- Shell-Shocked Veteran: Most of the characters, in one way or another, especially Hana and Kip.
- Slipknot Ponytail: Done with Kip's topknot.
- The Film of the Book
- The Power of Love: One of the recurring themes is the ability of love to transcend national boundaries in wartime. The result isn't always pretty.
- Very Loosely Based on a True Story: There was a Lazlo de Almasy who was a part of the Zerzura Club and later worked for the Germans during the war. However, he died in 1951 in Austria of dysentery and, recent discoveries heavily imply, was gay. The Claytons, on whom the Cliftons were based, both died in the early 30s, he from poliomyelitis, she in a flying accident.
- Villain Protagonist: The Patient, arguably, once we learn that his rejection of national ties led him to help German spies across the desert. Not to mention the unrepentant wrecking of the Cliftons' marriage (though some people would agree with his behavior there).
- "Where Are They Now?" Epilogue: A very brief one showing that Kip is now a doctor, married with children in India; he still thinks of Hana.
- Wire Dilemma: Part and parcel of Kip's work as a sapper; most prominently when defusing the bomb in the villa courtyard.
- World War II