The New York Times

By the Book: Michael Ondaatje

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

MICHAEL ONDAATJE, WHOSE MOST RECENT NOVEL IS ‘WARLIGHT,’ LOVES CHARACTERS ‘ON THE PERIPHERY’: ‘CONVICTS, ABANDONED LOVERS, THE DOG THAT PULLED SOMEONE OUT OF QUICKSAND.’

Q: What books are on your nightstand?

A: I have been rereading some old wonders such as Georges Simenon’s “The Train,” J.L. Carr’s “A Month in the Country” and Janet Lewis’s “The Wife of Martin Guerre.” And discovering two forthcoming books: Dionne Brand’s “The Blue Clerk” — part poem, part memoir, part ars poetica — and P. Ahilan’s “Then There Were No Witnesses,” his poems set in Jaffna during the war, translated by Geetha Sukumaran.

Q: What was the last truly great book you read?

A: Actually I am still reading it. Gilbert White’s “The Natural History of Selborne,” published by the wonderful Little Toller Books in Dorset, which keeps great books on nature in print. Written in 1798, it has the

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