Dr. Charles Martin By: Aleksandr Kalontarov
Mon/Wed 10:50-12:05 CMLIT 240
Running In The Family
The idea that spurred the notion for Michael Ondaatje to write a book comes from a deep rooted need to understand the man who he called father. A man whom he was too young to fully comprehend and whose perceptions, he feels were obscured by his role as son. His methods are rather simple as he ventures back to his homeland to interview his relatives and people aquatinted with his family. Even before he interviews his aunt at the beginning of the novel, he is overwhelmed by a feeling of nostalgia, a contextual influence that clearly affects his mood throughout the rest of his memoirs. It’s these old feelings combined with years of maturity that he must wrestle with when coming to terms with the type of person his father was. Yes it’s clear that he was an alcoholic, that he was flaky, but overall he was his father and jumping to any conclusions about his character might negatively influence his perceptions. Therefore many of the stories are told in quotations as though transcribed from another source and printed literally so as to allow the reader come to their own conclusions about his character.
The book is an addendum to his father’s life. Compiled with memories, emotions and personal prose, this is a very personal piece of literature, whose purpose is to give the author more insight into his father’s actions but his feelings about him as well. It becomes increasingly clear that Ondaatje’s desire to understand his family is at bottom a desire to know and understand his father. His lack of knowledge about his father is an empty space in his identity and this emptiness haunts him throughout the novel. The trip home allows him to make newfound observations given the opportunity to revisit everything with an unseen eye and acquire old memories.
The title “Running in the family” is directed at Michael Ondaatje’s fear of him...