Michael Ondaatje, the Canadian author born in Sri Lanka, comes up with his most recent work which he calls The Cat’s Table. He is renowned for his Booker Prize winning novel called The English Patient, which has in fact been adopted to an academy award winning film. The book revolves around the experiences of a centered character named Michael, 11 years old, while he’s aboard a ship called Oronsay, along with two of his friends named Cassius and Ramadhin.
During the 1950s, Michael boards the ship from Colombo, a ship that is destined to reach England via the Indian Ocean, the Suez Canal. During meal hours, he finds himself sharing his breakfast, lunch, and dinner with Cassius, Ramadhan, and a group of miscasts who are being deemed as insignificant adults, at a table that is located farthest from the Captain’s table. As they sail across the Mediterranean, Michael and his friends set out to explore the ship, tumbling upon a series of adventures.
Experience a ride through the chromatic tracks of exploration and excitement as the author’s characters come together to portray an array of emotions and experiences – a pianist, who finds himself in the midst of a s***-hitting-the-fan scene; Michael’s beautiful cousin with whom he shares his secrets; a retired ship dismantler; a shady botanist, who’s always accompanied by pigeons in her pockets, the very one who has named their eating table as the “cat’s table”, meaning that it is located in the least favored place; and a shackled prisoner whose enigmatic past would spill a chill.
The most salubrious experiences come from the most unsuspected sources. You are constantly being altered by the so-called “strangers” or “strange things” around you. One, within any environment, is subject to random experiences, where seeking balance amidst a negligent and apathetic ambiance by being vulnerable towards changes without holding any expectations will ensure a surprisingly pleasant experience. Nothing is alien, everything, everyone is familiar; it’s us who lack the essential knowledge, we need to explore in order to discover or rediscover, and get surprised only to acquire immunity towards bewilderment. The Cat’s Table brings into light, the forbidden discoveries of childhood or adolescence, the colorful experiences that ultimately take form of memories that determine one’s way of viewing life.
Colors are opaque; realizing this will certainly make you seek colorlessness. As you go further down the path, you find yourself becoming translucent, indicating the dawning of clarity, though it seems like a slow, gradual process. The Cat’s Table comprises of characters whose nature are too real to be distinguished from us. The book brings to the fore the ability of man to judge things and understand experiences from a spectator’s perspective; but this is the ideal case, which is in fact rarely found in the society. However, amongst the masses within the society, there are people who act wise and step away from everyday thoughts and judgments that are projected by the unrefined corners of ego, and relish every moment, every episode to the fullest, taking from them what’s essential and discarding the unworthy.