Ondaatje’s “running in the family” is an elaborate representation of the author’s unique perspective and identity. Ondaatje’s identity is represented by his unique desire to present his memories in irrational and imaginary themes, and his argue to represent the natural characteristics of his ancestors.
“Running in the family,” is a fictionalized memoir, written by Michael Ondaaji. Michael Ondaatje is a writer from a Ceylonese origin. Due to his parents’ divorce, He was forced to leave his native country with his mother at a young age. After living in Canada for twenty five years, he decides to visit Ceylon; and learn about his family and ancestors. The memoir represents glimpses of the author’s family history. It presents a story about the author’s great grandfather, who is an immigrant physician. It describes his grandfather, a rich lawyer, and his extravagant Grandmother Lalla. Furthermore, it contains multiple stories from the author’s childhood. It predominantly focuses on the author’s parental conflict. It indicates his father’s dipsomania and solitude; as well as, his mother’s suffering.
Ondaatje aims to transform the reader from the rigid realm of factual certainty to the realm of subjective and imaginative perception. He intends to capture the reader within his own thoughts and ideas; and forces the reader to look at truth from Ondaatje’s eyes. He captures the reader within a chaotic thought process. He uses a variety of random incomplete stories. Ondaatje encourages the reader to not question “what actually happened” but rather question the method by which the author thought it happened. The author’s perception and thought are the main construction of his character; therefore, it is the core of the author’s identity. His style is similar to the style of an impressionist painter, who tries to capture a single moment of an image at a specific place, and in a specific moment. Then, presents it to the observer, in the exact manner it was captured. Ondaatje tries to direct the reader to what he (Ondaatje) sees and thinks; regardless, of amount of reality, his perception holds. Unlike the historian, who aims to present his observations in an absolute factual manner, Ondaatje is offering a “larger vision based not exclusively on what we see and understand, but also on what we want and do not want, should or should not be, thus sharpening moral awareness and discrimination.” (Zivcovic 102). His quote, “in Sri Lanka a well-told lie is worth a thousand facts”, he indicates that he is not going to reproduce reality, in the way the impartial and rational eye sees it. However, he will reproduce his own reality. A reality that doesn’t necesssarly holds empirical truth; but represents his way of looking at stories, rumors, gossips and images.
Ondaatje starts his memoir by presenting two contradictory quotes. A quote from Franciscan Friar, “I saw in this island fowls as big as our country geese having two heads…and other...