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Sir Christopher Ondaatje

Christopher Ondaatje was born in Ceylon, was educated in England, and emigrated to Canada in 1956.  He has worked at several magazines and newspapers, and in 1967 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 eight books, including the best-selling Burton biographies Sindh Revisited and Journey to the Source of the Nile; and more recently Hemingway in Africa.  He was a member of Canada's 1964 bobsled team, is a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society and a Trustee of the National Portrait Gallery.  He lives in London, England and was knighted by the Queen in 2003.

Please visit Sir Christopher's websites: and

Leopard in the Afternoon

ISBN: 1590482247

Leopard in the Afternoon is a captivating story of a journey through some of Africa’s most spectacular haunts; and it is the most unusual story of how one of Canada’s most successful financiers, disillusioned with the world of business, found that a tenting safari became also a journey of discovery that would change his life irrevocably.

The journey took the form of a quest for that most dangerous, most threatened of the African cats – the leopard. Beautiful, mysterious, savage and reclusive, the leopard came to dominate the author’s thoughts and imagination. His drive to find the elusive creature led him deep into the Serengeti.

Christopher Ondaatje captures the power of Africa in his photographs as well as in the journal that he kept daily – from the grandeur of Mount Kilimanjaro to the breathtaking vistas of the Ngorongoro Crater, to the endless savannah plains of the Serengeti with its amazing variety of wildlife. The journey was enlivened by startling encounters with mating lions, night-marauding hyenas, and poisonous scorpions – and spiced with the risks the author took to obtain his photographs.

Leopard in the Afternoon is also touched with poignancy and regret for a vanishing wilderness – a world threatened with extinction. The book is a celebration and a lament – celebration of a fascinating and formidable environment; lament for the increasing fragility of its future.


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The Man-Eater of Punanai

ISBN: 1590482239

The Man-Eater of Punanai is a fascinating story of a past rediscovered through a remarkable journey to one of the most exotic countries in the world — Sri Lanka. Full of drama and history, it not only relives the incredible story of a man-eating leopard that terrorized the tiny village of Punanai in the early part of the century, but also allows the author to come to terms with the ghost of his charismatic but tyrannical father.

More than a simple tale of adventure, the story is the revelation of a colourful but troubled past — a charmed life which abruptly ended when the author was sent to school in England, away from the security of childhood and the family he loved so much. Through an evocative narrative we come to understand the forces that shaped this successful, mercurial man and that eventually impelled him to give up much of his power in the business world in exchange for a more satisfying quest.

In his photographs and his highly personal narrative, Christopher Ondaatje has captured all of the exotic drama of Sri Lanka: the jungles of Yala, the family tea estate, the ancient ruined cities, and, eventually, the strife-torn village of Punanai — now the scene of a different terror. The journey’s drama is heightened by accounts of intriguing meetings with people who were very much a part of the family past — privileged members of a declining colonial society. There were risks, too, but through it all the bold quest for truth drove the author relentlessly to a final and inevitable confrontation.

“...a remarkable account of a journey into the past and the present. It is also an act of stark confrontation: wilful, alarming, and poignant.” John Fraser, Editor, Saturday Night, from the introduction.

“This is both an original and a compulsively readable book. The author has blended the story of his pursuit of the leopard in Sri Lanka with the pursuit of his own past. He has mingled adventure with reflection, history with legend, in a fascinating and revealingly personal narrative.” Charles Ritchie, Author, The Siren Years.


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Sindh Revisited

ISBN 1590482212







Sindh Revisited is the remarkable story of the author’s fascination with the early life of Sir Richard Francis Burton (1821-1890). It is the story of an incredible journey, too — deep into the heart of British India, and the India and Sindh of today.

The very name of Sir Richard Burton conjures up images of adventure. His search for the source of the Nile with John Hanning Speke contributed to his being the best-known traveller of the nineteenth century. Burton was an outstanding orientalist, archaeologist, linguist, anthropologist, and a controversial diplomat. His over fifty books covered an amazing diversity of subjects, and his translation of the Arabian Nights remains the most famous ever published. The startling drama of Richard Burton’s existence continued even after his death. His remaining papers were burnt by his widow, perhaps one of the most destructive crimes ever perpetrated on the literary world.

Christopher Ondaatje’s Sindh Revisited is the extraordinarily sensitive account of the author’s quest to uncover the secrets of the seven years Richard Burton spent in India in the army of the East India Company from 1842 to 1849. “If I wanted to fill the gap in my understanding of Richard Burton, I would have to do something that had never been done before: follow in his footsteps in India…” The journey covered thousands of miles—trekking across deserts where ancient tribes meet modern civilization in the valley of the mighty Indus River.

What was it that Burton discovered in India? What was it that changed him from a rebellious, wayward youth into a man of courage, imagination, wisdom and personal power? Through this unique book and the journey it describes, we come nearer than ever before to understanding the mystery of Richard Burton and the devils that drove him.

Here is drama and insight, danger and revelation — a rare first-hand glimpse into a world few of us know. Startling photographs complement this narrative which puts the reader on the scene in modern Sindh while never losing sight of the Victorian India of Burton.


For more information, please go to or Barnes & Noble.

Woolf in Ceylon

ISBN 1590482220


Leonard Woolf was born in London in 1880 and spent five years at Trinity College, Cambridge where he began lasting friendships with men such as Lytton Strachey, E. M. Forster and John Maynard Keynes. In 1904 Woolf applied to join the home civil service but failed the exam. Instead, he was sent to Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) as a cadet in the Ceylon civil service, joining the small group of white administrators who ruled the colony. He remained there for nearly seven years.

In Woolf in Ceylon Christopher Ondaatje, who was himself born and brought up on the island, follows in the footsteps of Woolf. Drawing on his personal experience of Ceylon and empire, he compares the way of life during imperial days with that of the post-colonial era. We learn as much about the country, its people and their transformation of the country during the past century as we do about the man who used his colonial career to become one of the leading English men of letters of the twentieth century.

Ondaatje’s sensitive descriptions, illustrated with period and modern photographs, tell the compelling story of Woolf’s sojourn in Ceylon and his developing disillusionment with the British colonial system. The result is a unique evocation of both a vanished imperial world and a colonial servant’s enduring legacy in the contemporary culture of an enchanted but troubled island.

“I personally regard this as Christopher Ondaatje’s most valuable book to date.” Andrew Robinson, Literary Editor, The Times Higher Education Supplement.


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