Stylish, elegant, beautifully written... and utterly lifeless

There’s something mysteriously lifeless about Michael Ondaatje’s novels. Like Laura Ashley curtains, they gratify a snobbish taste without taking any aesthetic risks

22nd July, 2018
Michael Ondaatje’s ‘respectable’ style of writing ensures his ongoing popularity, but his new novel is a tedious affair indeed Pic: Getty

FICTION: Warlight, By Michael Ondaatje, Jonathan Cape, €17.50

The world is full of bad writers: ideologues, cliché-merchants, axe-grinders. It therefore feels churlish to complain about the work of Michael Ondaatje, who writes lushly romantic historical tragedies in sober prose and who is not an ideologue, or a cliché-merchant, or an axe-grinder. But there’s something mysteriously lifeless about Ondaatje’s novels. Like Laura Ashley curtains, they gratify a snobbish taste without taking any aesthetic risks....

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