Last Colonial

The Last Colonial

Curious Adventures & Stories from a Vanishing World

  1. Christopher Ondaatje
  2. Images by Ana Maria Pacheco
See Inside
  • ISBN 9780500251867
  • 24.00 x 16.00 cm
  • Hardback
  • 256pp
  • Illustrated in colour
  • First published 2011
‘An absolutely captivating read, made even more special by the enigmatic and disturbing images provided by Ana Maria Pacheco’s paintings’ – We Love This Book
‘A summing up of his life to date and his earlier writings … handsomely published … [Ondaatje has] a taut, chiseled writing style … aptly complemented by the brilliant, surreal illustrations’ – The Historian
‘Christopher Ondaatje has crammed a lot into his 78 years … his clean, clear prose glints with myths, monsters, mischief and murder’ – Wanderlust
‘Exhilarating collection of travelling tales ... offer an evocative portrait of the late-colonial era, interwoven with beautiful illustrations ... Not only the geographical landscapes intrigue, but the landscapes of the human mind and heart which Ondaatje charts in moving details’ – The Independent

Christopher Ondaatje is a true child of the British Empire.

Born in Ceylon, the son of a tea planter, he was brought up on the plantation, then as a teenager he was packed off to England to ‘get a decent education’ and to learn how to become an Englishman. But soon after Ceylon was granted its Independence in 1948 his family found themselves destitute, which forced the young Ondaatje to get a job.

In 1956, following a hunch, he made his way to Canada with just thirteen dollars in his pocket. There followed a series of commercial triumphs until he abruptly abandoned high finance at the peak of his career and re-invented himself as an explorer and author.

It is the curious encounters behind his often precarious adventures that make up The Last Colonial. The stories tell of childhood days in Ceylon; a lifelong pursuit of elusive leopards; early struggles in Canada; his fascination with inexplicable events and local superstitions; and sometimes perilous travels researching his biographies of Ernest Hemingway in Africa and Leonard Woolf in Ceylon. His two books on Sir Richard Burton, Sindh Revisited and Journey to the Source of the Nile, are perhaps the best known of his biographies, and in this new volume he turns to Burton in Syria.

Complemented by the artist Ana Maria Pacheco’s magical, sometimes disturbing, images, the stories conjure up a truly unique portrait of a ‘colonial’ 
world that is vanishing forever.

Christopher Ondaatje founded Pagurian Press, which eventually became the enormously successful Pagurian Corporation. In 1988 he sold all his business interests and returned to the literary world. He is the author of nine books, including the best-selling Burton biographies Sindh Revisited and Journey to the Source of the Nile, and more recently Hemingway in Africa and Woolf in Ceylon. He was a member of Canada’s 1964 Olympic bobsled team, and is a fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and an Honorary Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He lives in England, in London and Devon, and was knighted by the Queen in 2003.