July 17, 2012 § Leave a comment

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The Cat’s Table is the second book by Michael Ondaatje that I have read. Ondaatje is one of those authors whose writing leaves you with that funny little good feeling. His words caress the landscapes of familiarity with a touch so distant, that your senses feel tickled, searching half in joy, half in melancholy for a reconciliation with the fictional world.

If Anil’s journey(In Anil’s Ghost) to find evidence against the government during the civil unrest was about an adult traveling through a home that never was, Michael’s journey on the Oronsay is about a small world drawn by a boy around himself, on a ship while crossing the seas. A world, which even though years pass, he cannot forget.

The journey has a childish innocence to it, and as a contrast, the parts where the author talks about what happened after the voyage leave you spell-bound as he flexes the words to bend backwards in presenting the complex relationships and affections between the people he met on that fateful boat.

The author narrates without imposing any views about the characters, they are people with their funny little ways and means.  Indeed, that is what makes the description of the journey what it is- the unbiased presentation of a territory inhabited by an eleven year old- Curious, inquisitive about the adults on board and their travails while causing a riot every now and then.

What makes the book special, is how the author brings together, the story of a childhood and juxtaposes it against the story of an adult.  His affection for Ramadhin, the career of Cassius- his two close friends on board, the various people of the Cat’s table and his cousin, Emily and her life after the ride across the seas, are told with a margin of emotions. Not everything is pleasant throughout the journey, we see the child trying to cope with death, being used to steal and almost being killed in a storm.

The Cat’s table is a wonderful read, one which can be savored. There is a satisfaction in reading it, inspired by the author’s own journey from Colombo to London, one gets to see a world which seems dear to the writer. It is as if he is telling you his favorite story, as if you are special enough to hear it.


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