Asia's Europes: anti-colonial attitudes in the novels of Ondaatje and Shamsie

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This article examines the significance of a network of references in the novels The English Patient by Canadian Sri Lankan writer Michael Ondaatje, and Burnt Shadows and A God in Every Stone by British Pakistani writer Kamila Shamsie. Ondaatje’s and Shamsie’s novels explore anti-European Asian sentiment in the early to mid-20th century, with a particular shared focus upon the colonization of northern India and the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Both writers draw upon the works of ancient Greek historian Herodotus, allowing a comparison of the imperialism of the ancient and modern worlds. This study was inspired by rereading Ondaatje’s The English Patient within the framework of subaltern theories by Pankaj Mishra and Dipesh Chakrabarty. Ultimately, the novels propose that an understanding of the role of historicity in imperial thinking helps to explain how historical events such as the bombing of Japan and 9/11 are linked.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)184-195
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Postcolonial Writing
Issue number2
Early online date4 Mar 2015
Publication statusPublished - 1 Apr 2015


  • historicity
  • subaltern
  • world war
  • Michael Ondaatje
  • Kamila Shamsie


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