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Additional info for Comparative Cultural Studies and Michael Ondaatje's Writing (Comparative Cultural Studies)
The plane crash has made the “English” patient forget his national origins. It appears that this amnesia has brought his earlier wish to “erase [his] name and the place [he] had come from” (139) to full realization. He has become a signifier without a signified. The name appears without any direct reference to its bearer. The reader establishes the link between “Almásy” and the “English” patient him/herself when he/she realizes that “Almásy” is the only name without a clear referent and must therefore designate the unnamed and unnamable character in the novel.
Hilger gies 70). Herodotus’s Scythians continue to be the ungraspable Other, as do Ondaatje’s Bedouins whom the “English” patient remembers on his journey into the past. Although the “English” patient speaks the language of the tribe which rescues him, he can never locate it exactly. The nomads keep escaping the cartographer’s eye. The closest the “English” patient comes to locating them is as “one of the northwest desert tribes” (Ondaatje 9). As a consequence it remains the “—— tribe” (95) for the “English” patient and his readers.
In this instance, references to Buddhism emphasize the devastation wrought by imperial and colonial forces. We are told, for example, that in the few years following its discovery by Japanese archaeologists in 1918, the Bodhisattvas were “quickly bought up by museums in the West” (12). As Palipana, the infamous Singhalese epigraphist in the novel, tells his archaeology student Sarath, “the ‘ascendancy of the idea’ [is] . . often the only survivor” (12). To complicate matters further, subsequent references to Buddhism undermine this portrayal of a religion besieged solely by external imperialist forces.