Subtitle The English Patient
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The English Patient tells the stories of four individuals whose lives come together at the end of World War II in an abandoned Italian villa: Hana, a 20-year-old nurse from Canada who seeks refuge from the proliferation of wartime death; Kirpal (Kip) Singh, a 25-year-old \"sapper,\" or bomb dismantler, from India who is a member of the British Army; David Caravaggio, a friend of Hana's father who worked as a spy during the war and was severely disfigured while a captive of the Germans; and Hana's patient, a severely burned man whose identity is the mystery at the heart of this novel. Each of these characters finds him or herself far away from home, displaced by the war, and each of them finds a quiet refuge in the abandoned Italian villa to reconstruct their lives. While Hana and Kip eventually develop a romantic relationship, Caravaggio becomes more and more obsessed with the patient's true identity: Caravaggio believes that the patient may not be English, as everyone assumed, but a Hungarian who worked as a spy for the Germans. Interspersed into the story of the lives of these characters together in Italy are each character's clear recollections of the past, including the patient's hallucinatory memories of a torrid love affair, of desert exploration, and of friendship and betrayal. The novel becomes a collage of memories that explores themes of war, nationality, identity, loss, and love.
Near the end of World War II, a young Canadian nurse, Hana, is living in an abandoned Italian villa with a severely burned patient. Hana had decided to stay behind with her patient, who was too fragile to move, after her hospital regiment moved on. Hana does not know the patient's identity, but she tries to piece together his story from his fragmentary hallucinations. She thinks he is English.
The patient remembers crashing a plane in the desert. A tribe of desert people find him and tend his badly burned body. They transport him across the desert as they care for him. As he heals, he serves them by identifying European-made weapons found hidden in the desert.
That evening, Caravaggio brings home a pilfered gramophone, and the foursome have a small celebration in the patient's room. Kip suddenly leaves when he hears an explosion; another sapper, Hardy, had been killed while trying to defuse a bomb. Kip returns hours later and finds Hana still in the patient's room. He crosses the room to be with her, snipping the wires of the patient's hearing aid so the patient will not hear them.
Told from the point of view of the patient, this chapter consists of fragments of the patient's past: he had been part of an inter-European expedition mapping the Libyan deserts before World War II. In 1936, Geoffrey Clinton, a young Englishman, joins the patient's company in the desert, bringing with him his new, young wife, Katharine.
Told mostly from the point of view of Katharine Clifton, this chapter is a series of short accounts of the genesis of her relationship with the patient: her dreams of him; their somewhat violent lovemaking; awaking in their room in Cairo to the sound of morning prayers. He, in the meantime (although he has told her to claim no ownership over him), grows more and more obsessed with her and more and more disturbed by having to pretend in public that their relationship does not exist. She insists, for the sake of her husband's sanity, that they end the affair. The separation is heartbreaking for both of them, but neither lets the other know.
Caravaggio believes that the patient is the Hungarian Count Ladislaus de Almásy, a desert explorer who helped the Germans navigate the deserts on numerous occasions. Caravaggio knows everything about Almásy because he had tracked his movement across the desert. Despite Hana's protestations, Caravaggio drugs the patient into a hallucination to get to the bottom of his identity.
In 1939, Geoffrey Clinton had attempted a murder/suicide by trying to crash his plane into the patient in the desert. Katharine was in the plane with him. He did not hit the patient, but Clifton was killed and Katharine severely wounded; the totaled plane left the patient and Katharine with no transportation out of the desert. The patient leaves Katharine in a desert cave and goes on foot in search of help. The patient is taken captive because the dessert is now a war zone, and he is thought to be a spy for the Germans. He is only able to return to Katharine years later. When he reaches the cave, he finds her body and carries her from the cave to a hidden plane. While flying out of the dessert, the plane catches fire, burning the patient, and then crashes.
Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip lead a quiet and private life, together in the villa, with the patient. They bring a ladybug from the garden for the patient to look at; they play hide-and-go-seek in the darkness of the library.
Told in the first-person voice of the patient, as he speaks to Caravaggio during a morphine-induced conversation, the patient continues to fill in more details about his past with Katharine Clifton. He finds himself secretly falling deeper and deeper in love with Katharine, and after she had been in their company for more than a year, it is Katharine who initiates their affair by casually informing him that she wants him \"to ravish\" her.
The patient's story segues into recollections of his good friend Madox who had been with him in the desert for ten years. Madox returned to England after the war broke out and the desert group was forced to disband. While at church with his wife, during a sermon praising the war, Madox shot himself to death.
The patient shifts into speaking in a third-person voice about Almásy and Katharine Clifton in Cairo, leading Caravaggio to wonder who he is speaking as now. The patient does not ever admit that he and Almásy are the same person.
Back at the villa at the present moment, Kip storms angrily into the patient's bedroom, pointing his gun angrily at him. He has just heard that the United States has bombed Hiroshima. The realization of the injustice of the American and Britishled policies against the non-Western countries of the world forces Kip to question why he, as a Sikh, is fighting a British war. He walks out on the patient, on Caravaggio, and especially, on Hana.
Sometime after Kip leaves, but before her patient dies, Hana writes a letter to her stepmother, Clara, in which she openly discusses the death of her father, Patrick, for the first time. The letter represents a catharsis for Hana.
A middle-aged Canadian of Italian descent, Caravaggio, who was a professional burglar in Toronto, had joined the war effort as a spy for the Allies in Italy. He is an old friend of Hana's father, and when he hears that she is staying in an abandoned villa with a burn patient, he joins her there after his release from the hospital. His thumbs had been cut off while he was held captive and tortured by the Germans immediately prior to their retreat from Italy. He has developed an addiction to morphine.
Caravaggio, like the patient, represents a father figure to Hana. He is concerned about her health and safety and often tries to convince her to leave the abandoned villa. Hana remembers him as having been a gregarious and confident man, but the war and the torture have broken his spirit. He and Hana often sadly reminisce about their lives in Toronto before the war. Caravaggio is also a sort of a nemesis to the patient, as he is obsessed with the patient's true identity: he believes that the patient is not an Englishman but a spy who worked for the Germans. Because of his obsession with the patient's identity, he drugs him again and again into lucid hallucinations in order to pry his story from him. By the end, however, the patient's tragic story has removed any trace of Caravaggio's anger towards him.
When Clifton crashes his plane into the desert in an attempt to kill Almásy, he kills himself and mortally wounds Katharine. Almásy leaves her in a cave while he goes for help; she dies when he is unable to return to her. Katharine's death is the patient's greatest source of anguish. His inability to save her is the ultimate reason he renounces his identity.
The identity of the English patient is the crux of the mystery at the heart of this novel; his identity remains somewhat ambiguous even to the end of the novel. Burned beyond recognition, the patient is introduced to the young Canadian nurse, Hana, in an Italian hospital. She stays on with him at an abandoned Italian villa after her hospital regiment moves on. Through several fragments of his mostly hallucinatory monologues that pepper the novel, it is revealed that this patient, whom everyone believes to be an Englishman, was part of a Geographical Society expedition to map the Libyan desert. During his time in the desert, he meets and falls in love with Katharine Clifton, the young wife of his colleague Geoffrey Clifton. They commence a violent affair and break it off, only to have Clifton, in a fit of jealousy, attempt to kill them both by crashing his plane in the desert. Clifton is killed, and the patient leaves the severely injured Katharine in a desert cave until he can return with help. By this time, World War II has broken out, and he is captured by the English, who assume he is a spy for the Germans. He is unable to save Katharine. Two years go by before he is able to return to the cave and retrieve Katharine's body.
The patient was kept from saving Katharine because, by virtue of his name, the English assumed he was allied with the Germans. That he is thought to be an enemy by the British because of his non-Anglo name is the root of the patient's refusal to identify himself or align himself with any nation. The patient is a man of great historical and geographical knowledge, and a great passion for the desert. Both the death of his friend Madox and the death of Katharine cause him enough anguish to not be able to face his memories, except in the stupor of the morphine injections that Caravaggio administers. 59ce067264