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The Cat's Table
 
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The Cat's Table [Format Kindle]

Michael Ondaatje
5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)

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THE CAT’S TABLE by Michael Ondaatje
 
He wasn’t talking. He was looking from the window of the car all the way. Two adults in the front seat spoke quietly under their breath. He could have listened if he wanted to, but he didn’t. For a while, at the section of the road where the river sometimes flooded, he could hear the spray of water at the wheels. They entered the Fort and the car slipped silently past the post office building and the clock tower. At this hour of the night there was barely any traffic in Colombo. They drove out along Reclamation Road, passed St. Anthony’s Church, and after that he saw the last of the food stalls, each lit with a single bulb. Then they entered a vast open space that was the harbour, with only a string of lights in the distance along the pier. He got out and stood by the warmth of the car.

He could hear the stray dogs that lived on the quays barking out of the darkness. Nearly everything around him was invisible, save for what could be seen under the spray of a few sulphur lanterns—watersiders pulling a procession of baggage wagons, some families huddled together. They were all beginning to walk towards the ship.

He was eleven years old that night when, green as he could be about the world, he climbed aboard the first and only ship of his life. It felt as if a city had been added to the coast, better lit than any town or village. He went up the gangplank, watching only the path of his feet—nothing ahead of him existed—and continued till he faced the dark harbour and sea. There were outlines of other ships farther out, beginning to turn on lights. He stood alone, smelling everything, then came back through the noise and the crowd to the side that faced land. A yellow glow over the city. Already it felt there was a wall between him and what took place there. Stewards began handing out food and cor- dials. He ate several sandwiches, and after that he made his way down to his cabin, undressed, and slipped into the narrow bunk. He’d never slept under a blanket before, save once in Nuwara Eliya. He was wide awake. The cabin was below the level of the waves, so there was no porthole. He found a switch beside the bed and when he pressed it his head and pillow were suddenly lit by a cone of light.

He did not go back up on deck for a last look, or to wave at his relatives who had brought him to the harbour. He could hear singing and imagined the slow and then eager parting of families taking place in the thrilling night air. I do not know, even now, why he chose this solitude. Had whoever brought him onto the Oronsay already left? In films people tear themselves away from one another weeping, and the ship separates from land while the departed hold on to those disappearing faces until all distinction is lost.
I try to imagine who the boy on the ship was. Perhaps a sense of self is not even there in his nervous stillness in the narrow bunk, in this green grasshopper or little cricket, as if he has been smuggled away accidentally, with no knowledge of the act, into the future.
 
He woke up, hearing passengers running along the corridor. So he got back into his clothes and left the cabin. Something was happening. Drunken yells filled the night, shouted down by officials. In the middle of B Deck, sailors were attempting to grab hold of the harbour pilot. Having guided the ship meticulously out of the harbour (there were many routes to be avoided because of submerged wrecks and an earlier breakwater), he had gone on to have too many drinks to celebrate his achievement. Now, apparently, he simply did not wish to leave. Not just yet. Perhaps another hour or two with the ship. But the Oronsay was eager to depart on the stroke of midnight and the pilot’s tug waited at the waterline. The crew had been struggling to force him down the rope ladder, however as there was a danger of his falling to his death, they were now capturing him fishlike in a net, and in this way they lowered him down safely. It seemed to be in no way an embarrassment to the man, but the episode clearly was to the officials of the Orient Line who were on the bridge, furious in their white uniforms. The passengers cheered as the tug broke away. Then there was the sound of the two-stroke and the pilot’s weary singing as the tug disappeared into the night.
 
What had there been before such a ship in my life? A dugout canoe on a river journey? A launch in Trincomalee harbour? There were always fishing boats on our horizon. But I could never have imagined the grandeur of this castle that was to cross the sea. The longest journeys I had made were car rides to Nuwara Eliya and Horton Plains, or the train to Jaffna, which we boarded at seven a.m. and disembarked from in the late afternoon. We made that journey with our egg sandwiches, some thalagulies, a pack of cards, and a small Boy’s Own adventure.

But now it had been arranged I would be travelling to England by ship, and that I would be making the journey alone. No mention was made that this might be an unusual experience or that it could be exciting or dangerous, so I did not approach it with any joy or fear. I was not forewarned that the ship would have seven levels, hold more than six hundred people including a captain, nine cooks, engineers, a veterinarian, and that it would contain a small jail and chlorinated pools that would actually sail with us over two oceans. The departure date was marked casually on the calendar by my aunt, who had notified the school that I would be leaving at the end of the term. The fact of my being at sea for twenty-one days was spoken of as having not much significance, so I was surprised my relatives were even bothering to accompany me to the harbour. I had assumed I would be taking a bus by myself and then change onto another at Borella Junction.

There had been just one attempt to introduce me to the situation of the journey. A lady named Flavia Prins, whose husband knew my uncle, turned out to be making the same journey and was invited to tea one afternoon to meet with me. She would be travelling in First Class but promised to keep an eye on me. I shook her hand carefully, as it was covered with rings and bangles, and she then turned away to continue the conversation I had interrupted. I spent most of the hour listening to a few uncles and counting how many of the trimmed sandwiches they ate.

On my last day, I found an empty school examination booklet, a pencil, a pencil sharpener, a traced map of the world, and put them into my small suitcase. I went outside and said good-bye to the generator, and dug up the pieces of the radio I had once taken apart and, being unable to put them back together, had buried under the lawn. I said good-bye to Narayan, and good-bye to Gunepala.

As I got into the car, it was explained to me that after I’d crossed the Indian Ocean and the Arabian Sea and the Red Sea, and gone through the Suez Canal into the Mediterranean, I would arrive one morning on a small pier in England and my mother would meet me there. It was not the magic or the scale of the journey that was of concern to me, but that detail of how my mother could know when exactly I would arrive in that other country.

And if she would be there.
 
I heard a note being slipped under my door. It assigned me to Table 76 for all my meals. The other bunk had not been slept in. I dressed and went out. I was not used to stairs and climbed them warily.

In the dining room there were nine people at Table 76, and that included two other boys roughly my age.

“We seem to be at the cat’s table,” the woman called Miss Lasqueti said. “We’re in the least privileged place.”

It was clear we were located far from the Captain’s Table, which was at the opposite end of the dining room. One of the two boys at our table was named Ramadhin, and the other was called Cassius. The first was quiet, the other looked scornful, and we ignored one another, although I recognized Cassius. I had gone to the same school, where, even though he was a year older than I was, I knew much about him. He had been notorious and was even expelled for a term. I was sure it was going to take a long time before we spoke. But what was good about our table was that there seemed to be several interesting adults. We had a botanist, and a tailor who owned a shop up in Kandy. Most exciting of all, we had a pianist who cheerfully claimed to have “hit the skids.”


From the Hardcover edition.

Revue de presse

“Wondrous. . . . A new form of literary magic.” —The San Francisco Chronicle

“Mesmerizing. . . . As he did in his great novel, The English Patient, Ondaatje conjures images that pull strangers into the vivid rooms of his imagination, their detail illumined by his words.” —The New York Times Book Review

 “Lithe and quietly profound: a tale about the magic of adolescence and the passing strangers who help tip us into adulthood in ways we don’t become aware of until much later.” —The Washington Post
 
“Enthralling and poignant. . . . A captivating reminder that it can take decades to comprehend the past, let alone to make amends with it.” —The Seattle Times

“To capture truly any moment of life is an achievement of art. To find captured, in a single work, such disparate experiences—of youth and age, of action and reflection, of innocence and experience—is a rare pleasure. If each of Ondaatje’s novels is like a new flower, then this one smells particularly sweet.” —Claire Messud, The New York Review of Books

“For my money, Michael Ondaatje is the greatest living writer in the English language. . . . The wide-eyed love of the world and its wonders, the kindness he offers to his characters and readers, the elegant lyricism of his sentences, the joy of storytelling—all that is great in his other books is fully present in The Cat’s Table. . . . Mr. Ondaatje restores belief in the beauty and power of literature and, by extension, of humanity. In this dark, terrible world, The Cat’s Table has healing powers.” —Aleksandar Hemon, WSJ.com

“Ondaatje teaches us that the most marvelous sights are those most often overlooked. It's a lesson that turns this supple story, like the meals at the cat's table, into a feast.” —Los Angeles Times
 
“A lovely, shimmering book. . . . Ondaatje succeeds so well in capturing the anticipation and inquisitiveness of boyhood.” —Janet Maslin, The New York Times
 
“A great master may have written his finest book in a long career of fine books.” —Alan Heathcock, Salon
 
“Ondaatje brings all his literary trademarks to The Cat’s Table, from luminous prose to an amazing sense of economy. He makes every character, image and line resonate like a tuning fork. . . . Elegant and elegiac, The Cat’s Table is the author’s most intimate work.” —The Miami Herald
 
“Michael Ondaatje has written some of the most inimitable works in the English language; The Cat's Table yet again dignifies literature in every important way possible. This novel is a completely original orchestration of a coming-of-age story, memoir, maritime adventure as powerful as Conrad or Stevenson. The lyricism of the prose is astonishing.” —Howard Norman, The Globe and Mail (Toronto)

“A gorgeous piece of writing. . . . Ondaatje has always been capable of conjuring up mesmerizing images to draw in a reader, but with The Cat’s Table he holds back just enough so the lyricism doesn’t overwhelm the story.” —The Christian Science Monitor
 
“A joy and a lark to read. . . . . The Cat’s Table expertly strums the cords of autobiography without overdoing it. As a result [the book] vibrates with the borrowed intimacy of real life.” —The Boston Globe
 
“Masterful. . . . Haunting and seductive.” —The Philadelphia Inquirer
 
“Elegant and beautiful . . . As in Anil’s Ghost, The Cat’s Table employs a deceptively light touch, hiding a carefully constructed and tender hymn to the enigma of journey.” —The Independent (London)
 
The Cat’s Table is just as skillfully wrought as Ondaatje’s magnum opus [The English Patient], but its picaresque childhood adventure gives it a special power and intimacy. . . . He is a master at creating characters, whom he chooses to present, memorably, as individuals. This choice is of a piece with the freshness and originality that are the hallmarks of The Cat’s Table.” —The Wall Street Journal
 
“Impressive. . . . Wonderful. . . . The beauty of Ondaatje’s writing is in its swift accuracy; it sings with the simple precision of the gaze. . . . Richly enjoyable, often very funny,and gleams like a really smart liner on a sunny day.” —Philip Hensher, The Daily Telegraph (London)
 
“Ondaajte couldn’t write a banal sentence if he tried. . . . . On its surface, The Cat’s Table may be a magically real reworking of a classic boy’s adventure tale. Deep down, it has the poignancy of a life’s summation.” —Pico Iyer, Time
 
“Mr. Ondaatje’s greatest talents lie in simply constructed, minimalist descriptions. His images are so meticulously created that the most obvious statements present themselves as sublime realizations. He doesn’t disappoint.” —Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
 
“Ondaatje is justly recognized as a master of literary craft. . . . The novel tells of a journey from childhood to the adult world, as well as a passage from the homeland to another country, something of a Dantean experience.” —Annie Proulx, The Guardian (UK)
 
“Michael Ondaatje never writes the same book twice [though] what remains constant is precise, luminous language. . . . Ondaatje’s vision, though dark, is unfailingly generous and humane.” —The Oregonian
 
“Elegant, evocative. . . . Whatever its autobiographical roots, there’s a strong sense that this story—one with echoes of Conrad and Kipling—is a tale Michael Ondaatje someday was destined to tell. It’s a pleasure for us, his readers, to share in that telling.” —Bookreporter.com
 
“[Ondaatje’s] sentences have a sonorous capacity, a soft but urgent tone that coaxes rather than demands attention. Acrobatics are eschewed for a supple, precise flexibility. It's a gift shared by other English-language writers who spent significant time surrounded by diverse tongues: E.M. Forster, for example, and Graham Greene.” —The Denver Post


Détails sur le produit

  • Format : Format Kindle
  • Taille du fichier : 416 KB
  • Nombre de pages de l'édition imprimée : 290 pages
  • Pagination - ISBN de l'édition imprimée de référence : 0307744418
  • Editeur : Vintage Digital (25 août 2011)
  • Vendu par : Amazon Media EU S.à r.l.
  • Langue : Anglais
  • ISBN-10: 0099554429
  • ISBN-13: 978-0099554424
  • ASIN: B005GOSTQC
  • Synthèse vocale : Activée
  • X-Ray :
  • Moyenne des commentaires client : 5.0 étoiles sur 5  Voir tous les commentaires (3 commentaires client)
  • Classement des meilleures ventes d'Amazon: n°9.132 dans la Boutique Kindle (Voir le Top 100 dans la Boutique Kindle)
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3 internautes sur 3 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Format:Relié
This is my first reading of MO, whose style I liked instantly. Short chapters with stories within, released in short bursts, and the end result superior to its constituent parts. [A Cat's Table is the dining table farthest away from the Captain's Table on passenger ships, implying low status.]
The book is based on MO's own 21-day sea voyage as an 11-year old from Colombo, Sri Lanka to the UK in 1954, and its aftermath. Years earlier MO's parents supposedly divorced. No word about the father. The mother left for the UK and MO was adopted by an uncle, a judge, who sent him to a strict boarding school. There MO learned to survive in groups and earn respect from fellow pupils: by skillful denial and lying, whenever opportune. Now he is on his way to the UK for further study, and his mother awaits his arrival. But he could not care less about her during the voyage, because so much is happening every day...

At the Cat's Table, MO meets men and women whose status and stories he cannot fully judge yet. But in his diary he records every adult sentence overheard and not understood. He also bonds quickly with Cassius (12), a wild boy a year ahead of him in school and Ramadhin, a shy boy with a weak heart whose sister he knows. They are also sent to the UK for further education. The trio spends most daylight and nightly hours together, probing the ship and trying to interpret what they see and hear. The sea voyage is a magical mystery tour for the unsupervised, trouble-prone 11 and 12-year olds, who quickly find secret meeting places to spy on and discuss fellow passengers, some of whom are not who they claim to be. They explore the ship's every level, make a nuisance of themselves, even discover a tightly-guarded criminal aired only around midnight.
Lire la suite ›
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1 internautes sur 1 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
Par LD COMMENTATEUR DU HALL D'HONNEUR TOP 50 COMMENTATEURS
Format:Broché
Michael Ondaatje, romancier né au Sri Lanka (alors Ceylan) en 1943, quitta Colombo pour Londres à 11 ans, en 1954. En 1962, il partit vivre au Canada, et devint citoyen canadien. Le héros de son dernier roman en date, The Cat's Table / La Table des autres (voir présentation sur la page de l'édition française), se prénomme Michael, vit à Ceylan jusqu'en 1954 et part au même âge en transatlantique pour l'Angleterre, devient par la suite lui-même écrivain et canadien, etc. Faut-il en conclure que ce roman est autobiographique et se nourrit exclusivement des souvenirs de l'auteur, comme on pourrait le faire un peu hâtivement? En fait, Ondaatje, qui ne cherche pas à brouiller les pistes plus que de raison, tient à l'expliciter dans une note après le texte, ainsi qu'en entretien. S'il a bien vécu ces trois semaines de traversée à bord d'un paquebot à cette époque-là, il dit n'en avoir que très peu de souvenirs et avoir créé de toutes pièces la plupart des personnages. Ainsi, il déclare dans un entretien (Libération, 30 août 2012) : "C'est juste un voyage en bateau. Un enfant embarque sur un paquebot et en débarque. Fin. C'était intéressant pour moi d'écrire une histoire apparemment limitée ; étrangement, cela m'a rendu plus aventureux. Je me suis senti libre de me projeter vers l'avenir et de retourner dans le passé." A la question "est-ce vraiment un roman?", il répond : "Oui... je crois. Lire la suite ›
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 Charm and intelligence 14 mai 2013
Par Bunny
Format:Poche|Achat vérifié
I enjoyed every minute of this book. Through the eyes of a child of 12, we discover a handful of voyagers on a ship that goes from Ceylon to England. The storyteller and two of his friends have hideouts aboard that allow them to listen to private conversations or see things that were not meant for their eyes. As children they are unable to understand the full extent of what they see and hear. They are mischievous and constantly up to tricks, some of which put their lives into danger. The charm of the writing style comes from the candid glance the main character gives to everything he sees and the English he uses, slightly "décalé", as one would expect from a speaker of English from Ceylon (present day Sri Lanka). I'll look out for other books by Michael Ondaatje.
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Amazon.com: 3.9 étoiles sur 5  331 commentaires
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 It takes a lifetime to come of age 8 octobre 2011
Par TChris - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
At the age of eleven, Michael boards an ocean liner bound for England. With his friends Cassius and Ramadhin, he explores the ship and befriends eccentric passengers: Mr. Fonseka, a literature teacher from Colombo who displays the "serenity and certainty" Michael has observed "only among those who have the armor of books close by"; Mr. Daniels, who has transformed a section of the hold into an exotic garden; the musician and blues fan Max Mazappa; an Australian girl who greets the dawn by roller skating fiercely around the deck; Miss Lasqueti, a woman with a surprising, hidden background who is traveling with dozens of pigeons; a hearing impaired Singhalese girl named Asuntha, and others. "Simply by being in their midst," the boys are learning about adults, including those assigned to sit with them at the low-status Cat's Table, situated at the opposite end of the dining room from the Captain's Table. Michael's other lessons include his first fleeting experience with love and desire, as well as a taste of European racism, both subtle and (particularly in the case of the ship's captain) overt.

Two other passengers Michael knows only by sight. Sir Hector de Silva, a wealthy but ill passenger in Emperor Class accommodations, has bad luck with dogs, perhaps because a spell was cast upon him. At the opposite end of the social spectrum is a prisoner, rumored to be a murderer, whose midnight strolls on the deck -- closely guarded and in chains -- the concealed boys observe with fascination.

Michael Ondaatje keeps all these characters in motion like a master juggler. They are a fascinating bunch, and Ondaatje weaves them in and out of the narrative while maintaining a perfectly balanced pace: not so quick that the story whizzes by without time to appreciate its nuances; not so deliberate as to lose its energetic force.

At its midway point, the novel skips ahead from the 1953 voyage to events that occur twenty years later in Michael's life, events that trigger memories of the friends with whom he bonded on that formative journey. Although the writing in that section is exceptionally strong and quite moving, it has an out-of-joint feel, particularly when the flash forward ends and the voyage resumes. Subsequent interruptions to tell the reader of future events are shorter and more seamlessly integrated into the narrative. Eventually those passages become essential to the story; they complete it. Ondaatje writes: "Over the years, confusing fragments, lost corners of stories, have a clearer meaning when seen in a new light, a different place." The perspective that Michael gains with time, after reconnecting with individuals he met on the voyage, permits him (and thus the reader) to reinterpret events that occurred on the ocean -- particularly a moment of drama that becomes the story's nucleus, and that Michael can only understand fully many years later. For that reason, although The Cat's Table could be viewed as a coming of age novel, I think Ondaatje is suggesting that we spend our lifetimes coming of age -- that is, acquiring the wisdom and perspective of adulthood.

There is a restrained, graceful elegance to Ondaatje's prose that every now and then made me stop, blink, and reread a beautifully composed sentence or paragraph. He writes with affection of dogs and artists, of the needy and of those who give selflessly of themselves. This is a marvelously humane novel that works on a number of levels, but most of all, it is a joy to read.
182 internautes sur 197 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
5.0 étoiles sur 5 Best of Ondaatje's work 24 septembre 2011
Par Schuyler T Wallace - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
I run hot and cold on Michael Ondaatie's writing. However, his new book, THE CAT"S TABLE, resonated in a part of my mind long ignored. In some of his other works, DIVISIDERO and THE ENGLISH PATIENT, to mention a couple, he uses many unlikely characters in the telling of his story that seem to run together with no special destination or closure. To me the books are disjointed and not very interesting or realistic. In Cat's Table, he uses the same formula but with more satisfying results. In fact, having been something of a scoundrel in my early years, the boys in this novel reawakened my early existence with their endless curiosity, mindless pranks, and earthy delight in just being boys.

I'm getting ahead of myself. As Ondaatje said, during an interview, the storyline is "A boy (Michael) gets on a boat...and gets off a boat." Fortunately, for us, the author understates the events that subsequently happen. Interest is added when we get to meet a couple of other boys and the three of them ramble unfettered around a large ship, finding opportunities to spy, to assist in burglary, smoke unknown substances, speculate on human behavior, and develop hot-blooded hormones over attractive girls. I too, at that stage of development, had similar adventures, although my spying was done through grass and brush along a small creek. I peeked through tree branches and gaps in large rocks rather than through the pipes, cables and railings found on a big ship. But I saw a lot of stuff, as these young fellows did.

The boys are joined in their journey from Sri Lanka to England by a tailor, a botanist, a burned-out pianist, a retired ship junker, and a mysterious spinster, all of whom join the boys at their dining table far away from the elite near the Captain's table, hence the name the Cat's Table, a term Ondaatje learned from a German publisher. We also meet a chained murderer, a deaf girl, a high society woman who largely neglects her role as Michael's caretaker and Michael's comely cousin, the igniter of young libidos. All these interesting characters fall into place under Ondaatje's skillful manipulations. The reasons for and details of the ship's journey will remain undisclosed here, as will the flash-backs.

Michael Ondaatje is a controversial writer that readers either adore or loathe. I don't think, however, there's any doubt that he is an author who conveys atmosphere and conversation in a clear and descriptive manner. Mood and place are masterfully conveyed. His writing is spare and lucid, with no cerebral words that need to be found in a dictionary. The only word I recall that stumped me was ayurvedic. It wasn't even in my Webster's Collegiate. I later found it pertains to the ancient Hindu science of health and medicine.

Ondaatje is a poet which probably explains why he is so adept at manipulating the intricacies of space and time. He explains that a poet doesn't say everything in his poems. He says one-third of what should be said is left for the reader to figure out. That's what he tries to do in his novels. That could be the reason he is so controversial among serious readers...some don't want to read between the lines to figure out his storyline. In my opinion, that's not the case in Cat's Table. This book is lighter than some of his others and, although flash-forwards to the future are here, the storyline moves with fluidity and a plainness that made my heart thump and my mind reach for memories. That's what a good book should do, ignite the reader's mind.
221 internautes sur 244 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 I don't think I'm not reasonably intelligent... 27 septembre 2011
Par bert1761 - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
but I am not sure I "got" a lot of what was going on in this novel. While I loved the first third of the book, the last two-thirds eroded that sentiment.

"The Cat's Table" is the story of Michael, an 11-year-old who is put on a ship for a three-week voyage from Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) to England. Through his assignment to the "Cat's Table," he meets up with two other boys about his age and various other characters (and there are a few at other tables whom he knows or gets to know).

The first part of the novel is told exclusively from the point of view of 11-year-old Michael and it is highly entertaining and enjoyable to observe his exploits and hear his observations from them. Thereafter, the book skips forward and backward in time, so we hear from the adult Michael about things that happened to him and other characters since the trip, as well as his recounting of some of the events that took place on the ship from the vantage point of recollection, rather than observation. It is a result of this frequent change of time and perspective that I got somewhat lost in and bogged down by the book.

In addition, as the story is told by Michael, what he observes and chooses to tell us is all we really know about the other characters in the book; there is very little opportunity to observe them directly. As a result, I never really came to care much about any of the charactersin the novel. In this regard, I find it interesting to note that "The Cat's Tale" contains more characters than are in several of Michael Ondaatje's other novels COMBINED. I think this fact serves to highlight that Ondaatje is better than most authors at creating beautiful pictures and atmospheres with his words, but is not nearly as good at creating fully realized characters.

I give the book three stars for it wonderful beginning, its beautiful language, and flashes of insight into human nature (generally, rather than of any specific character). I can't give it any more than three stars, however, because of its convoluted storytelling and its failure to move me.
24 internautes sur 26 ont trouvé ce commentaire utile 
3.0 étoiles sur 5 A strong start with a lackluster finish 8 octobre 2011
Par Live2Cruise - Publié sur Amazon.com
Format:Relié|Commentaire client Vine pour produit gratuit (De quoi s'agit-il?)
It's difficult to write this review; in some places this novel is brilliant and in others, plodding. The novel starts out strong as the narrator, a young boy, boards the Oronsay from Ceylon to England. He is traveling alone, and his traveling companions become his dinner mates at the cat's table (the table farthest from the Captain's). The narrator is an inquisitive boy, and through his eyes we witness the happenings on the ship-- some everyday and mundane, and others intriguing. There is a prisoner aboard the ship, and this instantly captures the attention of Michael, the narrator, and his two friends. Michael's powers of observation are fairly astute, and the writing is powerful and sharp. The early part of the book reminded me of Life of Pi and Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and if I were reviewing this first part alone, this would have been a five star review without question.

The ship is a microcosm of society, and Michael's understanding of the divide between classes, and the relationship between children and adults, is cemented on this journey. His learning about the workings of the world in this shipboard snapshot of the larger world are compelling and endearing, and the author deftly captures his changing views as he grows up aboard the ship.

In the later part of the book, however, the tone seems to change-- it becomes darker, and this wasn't the trouble so much as the sudden feeling of being more distant from Michael and the other characters. We move between Michael's present adult life, and his time as a boy on the ship. More characters become involved in the story, but we never really get to know any of them enough to feel a connection. This makes it difficult to stay invested in the story. The mystery surrounding the prisoner does heat up, lending some interest. But unfortunately, the plot toward the end of the book seems to just skim the surface. I had hoped for it to go deeper and was disappointed that it didn't.

It's a worthwhile read by an obviously talented writer, but based on the first part of the book I had hoped for a much stronger finish.
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5.0 étoiles sur 5 "...we discovered we could become curious together." 26 septembre 2011
Par Evelyn A. Getchell - Publié sur Amazon.com
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The first thing that struck me as I begun reading The Cat's Table is the lovely lyrical flow of words. The fluid rhythm of this stunning, poetically moving novel by Michael Ondaatje reminded me much of reading verse.

"Then they entered a vast open space that was the harbour, with only a string of lights in the distance along the pier..."

"He could hear the stray dogs that lived on the quays barking out of the darkness. Nearly everything around him was invisible, save for what could be seen under the spray of a few sulphur lanterns--watersliders pulling a procession of baggage wagons , some facilities huddled together. They were all beginning to walk towards the ship."

The leitmotif of the voyage throughout The Cat's Table is much more than the transit from Point A to Point B ... it is the brilliant outburst of metaphor and symbolism, exploding with the rare and precious beauty of poetry.

The first third of the novel rocks gently and its movement forward is gentle, slow and deliberate. With unsparing precision and touching immediacy, Ondaatje takes the reader inside the heart and mind of its confused and insecure young hero, an eleven year old boy named Michael, who is traveling alone from his home in Ceylon to join his mother, whom he has not seen in six years, in England, where he will attend school and live among the Ceylonese expatriate community there.

The first chapters of Michaels' story present an unstable identity, confused but docile, protected only by the thinnest veneer. Michael is detached when he begins his three week journey aboard the ocean vessel ORANSAY, choosing solitude until becoming engaged by the others seated around Table 76, the Cat's Table, the table farthest from the Captain's Table and the least privileged place in the dining room.

Among the interesting adults seated around this Cat's Table are two other boys Michael's age - Ramadhin and Cassius.

"...It was by being in Mr. Mazappa's company, as he regaled us with confusing and often obscene lyrics from songs he knew, that we three came to accept one another. For we were shy and awkward. Not one of us had made even a gesture of greeting to the other two until Mazappa took us under his wing and advised us to keep our eyes open, that this voyage would be a great education. So by the end of our first day, we discovered we could become curious together."

Also on board ship, and much to Michael's utter delight, is a favorite cousin of his, the beautiful Emily who is six years older than he, wiser, more experienced and very influential on the young, lonely boy on the cusp of adolescence.

It is then that the overripe metaphors of the voyage, the young hero's journey from childhood to adolescence, will rupture and burst open to reveal a richness of drama that will only intensify to vibrate the reader's every fundamental nerve.

Ondaatje's prose is significant not only for its technical nuance but for its conveyance of heartbreak. Sensory perceptions are his tools and with his poet's imagination The Cat's Table provides his reader with beauty, intelligence and the quality of discovery. With a surging momentum, however whirling and dizzying, Ondaatje unites Michael, Ramadhin and Cassius in such a sensitive and compassionate way that they share the same constant surprises, the same life experiences, the same submerged emotions that Ondaatje brings to surface. And it is Emily who makes young Michael realize ...

Broken heart, you
timeless wonder.

What a small
place to be.

The Cat's Table is a true masterpiece of literary craftsmanship. Michael Ondaatje has a poet's ear--an ear for the sound and cadence of a lyrical language that vibrates deeply and penetrates the inner landscape of the human heart, sounding out the dreams, the memories and the yearnings that live there.

"This journey was to be an innocent story within the small parameter of my youth, I once told someone. With just three or four children at its center, on a voyage whose clear map and sure destination would suggest nothing to fear or unravel. For years I barely remembered it."

Michael, years later as a grown man, reflects that "Some events take a lifetime to reveal their damage and influence." In The Cat's Table Ondaatje dives deeply into the dark waters of human consciousness, exploring themes of identity and loneliness, of alienation and belonging, of living and loving, of surviving and death.

"...A few seconds had passed and we were separated, lost from each other. There was no last glance or even realization that this had happened. And after all the vast seas we were not able to find one another again." "Instead, we were making our way through the large crowd nervously, uncertain as to wherever it was that we were going."

There is a distinct personal tone to The Cat's Table which only intensifies the narrative's warmth and intimacy. Whether the novel is autobiographical for Ondaatje or not is irrelevant. What does matter is how deeply into the persona of his alter-ego character, Michael, he dives; how gently and tenderly Michael's private nature is revealed to us; how much we learn about ourselves through all which is brought to surface through Michael's secret heart.
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