Running in the Family

by Michael Ondaatje


Running in the Family is a fictionalized memoir, written in post-modern style involving aspects of magic realism, by Michael Ondaatje. It deals with his return to his native island of Sri Lanka, also called Ceylon, in the late 1970s.
It also deals with his family. Much of the focus falls on his father Mervyn Ondaatje and his scandalous drunken antics. Michael's grandmother Lalla is another family member that is explored in detail. Many themes are explored in the lives of his family, particularly luxurious frivolity and dipsomania. The book often seems to blur the lines of fiction and history by offering diverse accounts of certain incidents and retellings of isolated events about which the author couldn't logically know so many intimate details. It is ultimately about a man's quest to reconcile himself with the father he scarcely knew and come to terms with the loss of not knowing that man.
Some important themes include: memory, assumptions about others, the importance of family, and societal expectations. This book also contains many motifs including maps, nature and money.
Ondaatje writes, "A literary work is a communal act. [...]

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