The English Patient

by

Michael Ondaatje

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Patrick’s daughter and Kip’s lover. Hana is a 20-year-old Canadian nurse during World War II. She is stationed at the Villa San Girolamo, a former nunnery and makeshift war hospital in Northern Italy, but she refuses to leave the villa near the end of the war because of her unstable patient, known to her only as the English patient. The English patient has been badly burned and suffers from amnesia, and Hana spends all her time caring for him. She plants a garden in the villa’s orchard to feed them, and she frequently reads to him, either books from the villa’s library or the English patient’s own copy of Herodotus’s The Histories. Books are an exceedingly important part of Hana’s life, and since she is isolated at the abandoned villa, books are her only access to the outside world. The violence and trauma of the war has taken its toll on Hana, and she is likely suffering from shell-shock, or post-traumatic stress. Her trauma is exacerbated by the death of her father, Patrick, who was killed in the war. Like the English patient, Patrick was badly burned and died alone in France, something over which Hana feels intense guilt. As a nurse, Hana believes she should have been with Patrick as he died, and she wonders if she may have been able to help him. Because of this deep guilt, Hana puts all her energy into the English patient, for whom she develops both romantic and familial love. Through her love for the English patient, Hana comes to terms with the profound loss of her father and begins to heal after the stress of war. Caravaggio, an old friend of Patrick’s, comes to stay at the villa with her, as does Kip, an Indian sapper who is there to diffuse bombs on the property. Hana, enchanted by Kip’s exoticism, has a love affair with him during his time there. She begins to move toward positive healing after the war through the love she shares with the others at the villa. By the end of the novel, she is ready to return home to Canada, where her stepmother Clara lives. Hana’s character illustrates the power of love to give one strength and reason when there is little will to go on. Through her love for the three men at the villa, Hana begins the long and slow process of healing after the traumas of war.

Hana Quotes in The English Patient

The The English Patient quotes below are all either spoken by Hana or refer to Hana. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Love Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Vintage edition of The English Patient published in 1993.
Chapter I Quotes

She entered the story knowing she would emerge from it feeling she had been immersed in the lives of others, in plots that stretched back twenty years, her body full of sentences and moments, as if awaking from sleep with a heaviness caused by unremembered dreams.

Related Characters: Hana
Related Symbols: Books
Page Number: 12
Explanation and Analysis:

She worked in the garden and orchard. She carried the six-foot crucifix from the bombed chapel and used it to build a scarecrow above her seedbed, hanging empty sardine cans from it which clattered and clanked whenever the wind lifted.

Related Characters: Hana
Related Symbols: Bombs
Page Number: 14
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter II Quotes

He sits with his hands below the table, watching the girl eat. He still prefers to eat alone, though he always sits with Hana during meals. Vanity, he thinks. Mortal vanity. She has seen him from a window eating with his hands as he sits on one of the thirty-six steps by the chapel, not a fork or a knife in sight, as if he were learning to eat like someone from the East. In his greying stubble-beard, in his dark jacket, she sees the Italian finally in him. She notices this more and more.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh, Caravaggio
Page Number: 39-40
Explanation and Analysis:

The Villa San Girolamo, built to protect inhabitants from the flesh of the devil, had the look of a besieged fortress, the limbs of most of the statues blown off during the first days of shelling. There seemed little demarcation between house and landscape, between damaged building and the burned and shelled remnants of the earth. To Hana the wild gardens were like further rooms. She worked along the edges of them aware always of unexploded mines. In one soil-rich area beside the house she began to garden with a furious passion that could come only to someone who had grown up in a city. In spite of the burned earth, in spite of the lack of water. Someday there would be a bower of limes, rooms of green light.

Related Characters: Hana
Related Symbols: The Villa
Page Number: 43
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter III Quotes

If he were a hero in a painting, he could claim just sleep. But as even she had said, he was the brownness of a rock, the brownness of a muddy storm-fed river. And something in him made him step back from even the naive innocence of such a remark. The successful defusing of a bomb ended novels. Wise white fatherly men shook hands, were acknowledged, and limped away, having been coaxed out of solitude for this special occasion. But he was a professional. And he remained the foreigner, the Sikh.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh
Related Symbols: Books , Bombs
Page Number: 104-5
Explanation and Analysis:

“I have seen editions of The Histories with a sculpted portrait on the cover. Some statue found in a French museum. But I never imagine Herodotus this way. I see him more as one of those spare men of the desert who travel from oasis to oasis, trading legends as if it is the exchange of seeds, consuming everything without suspicion, piecing together a mirage. ‘This history of mine,’ Herodotus says, ‘has from the beginning sought out the supplementary to the main argument.’ What you find in him are cul-de-sacs within the sweep of history—[…]”

Related Characters: The English Patient/László Almásy (speaker), Hana
Related Symbols: The Desert  , Books
Page Number: 118-9
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter IV Quotes

The ends of the earth are never the points on a map that colonists push against, enlarging their sphere of influence. On one side servants and slaves and tides of power and correspondence with the Geographical Society. On the other the first step by a white man across a great river, the first sight (by a white eye) of a mountain that has been there forever.

Related Symbols: The Desert 
Page Number: 141
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter VI Quotes

“Let me tell you a story,” Caravaggio says to Hana. ‘There was a Hungarian named Almásy, who worked for the Germans during the war. He flew a bit with the Afrika Korps, but he was more valuable than that. In the 1930s he had been one of the great desert explorers. He knew every water hole and had helped map the Sand Sea. He knew all about the desert. He knew all about dialects. Does this sound familiar? Between the two wars he was always on expeditions out of Cairo. One was to search for Zerzura— the lost oasis. Then when war broke out he joined the Germans. In 1941 he became a guide for spies, taking them across the desert into Cairo. What I want to tell you is, I think the English patient is not English.”

Related Characters: Caravaggio (speaker), The English Patient/László Almásy, Hana
Page Number: 163
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter VII Quotes

He was accustomed to his invisibility. In England he was ignored in the various barracks, and he came to prefer that. The self-sufficiency and privacy Hana saw in him later were caused not just by his being a sapper in the Italian campaign. It was as much a result of being the anonymous member of another race, a part of the invisible world. He had built up defences of character against all that, trusting only those who befriended him.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh
Related Symbols: Bombs
Page Number: 196-7
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter VIII Quotes

He will sit up and flip his hair forward, and begin to rub the length of it with a towel. She imagines all of Asia through the gestures of this one man. The way he lazily moves, his quiet civilisation. He speaks of warrior saints and she now feels he is one, stern and visionary, pausing only in these rare times of sunlight to be godless, informal, his head back again on the table so the sun can dry his spread hair like grain in a fan-shaped straw basket. Although he is a man from Asia who has in these last years of war assumed English fathers, following their codes like a dutiful son.

Related Characters: Hana, Kip/Kirpal Singh
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
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The English Patient PDF

Hana Character Timeline in The English Patient

The timeline below shows where the character Hana appears in The English Patient. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter I. The Villa
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Hana stops working in the garden and stands up. She can feel the weather changing, and... (full context)
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Hana bathes the English patient every four days. She starts at his feet, wrecked and mangled... (full context)
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The English patient tells Hana about the desert and picnics with a woman who used to kiss his body that... (full context)
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The English patient can never sleep at night, so Hana finds a book in the library and reads to him. If it is cold, she... (full context)
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As Hana reads to the English patient, she looks down the hall, but she knows that no... (full context)
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Hana has planted enough vegetables in the orchard near the Villa San Girolamo to keep the... (full context)
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...holes blown into the walls and roof by bombs, the library seems safe enough to Hana. A piano sits in the middle of the room, and birds and weather often enter... (full context)
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In the library, Hana takes The Last of the Mohicans off a shelf and walks backward out of the... (full context)
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...a hospital. The medical staff and patients were transferred south to a safer area, but Hana insisted on staying behind with the English patient. They have no electricity, and the winter... (full context)
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There are few beds remaining in the villa—Hana prefers to sleep in a hammock. She frequently sleeps in different rooms, at times in... (full context)
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Hana carries the six-foot crucifix from the chapel to the orchard and erects it as a... (full context)
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Hana picks up the copy of The Histories by Herodotus from the English patient’s bedside table.... (full context)
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Hana reads about the —, a wind out of Arabia whose name was erased by a... (full context)
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The English patient interrupts Hana’s reading and tells her that the Bedouin kept him alive for a reason. The English... (full context)
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...a large lake in the desert. We don’t know much about Africa, he says to Hana. Now, armies of thousands of men move across the desert, but the English patient isn’t... (full context)
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Hana stands at a sink after leaving the English patient. She splashes water on her face... (full context)
Chapter II. In Near Ruins
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...military hospital in Rome for over four months now. He heard in passing about the nurse with the burned patient, and he stops now to ask a group of doctors for... (full context)
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The doctors tell Caravaggio that the nurse, Hana, is in an old nunnery just north of Florence. The villa is incredibly unsafe,... (full context)
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...surgeons to remove her inflamed tonsils. Arriving at the villa, Caravaggio silently enters the room Hana is sitting in and kneels down next to her, “like an uncle.” (full context)
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...how you stormed out of the hospital followed by two grown men,” Caravaggio says to Hana. He asks her where the kitchen is and goes to look around. Hana sits at... (full context)
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The next day, Caravaggio finds Hana washing sheets in the fountain outside the villa. The Allies destroyed the water pipes in... (full context)
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Hana says that if Caravaggio plans on staying at the villa, they will need more food.... (full context)
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Hana often looks for Caravaggio late at night, after she has left the English patient. She... (full context)
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Caravaggio stares at Hana sitting at the table and thinks about his wife, which he hardly does at all... (full context)
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The makeshift hospital is part of the old monastery grounds. The nurses who came to the hospital to work were often just as shell-shocked as the men... (full context)
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Hana met the English patient not long after Patrick’s death. At that time, most of the... (full context)
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Later that night, Caravaggio finds Hana weeping shirtless at the kitchen table. He touches her gently on her bare shoulder and... (full context)
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Hana goes to her hammock to sleep. She took the hammock from a dead man some... (full context)
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On Hana’s first day in Italy, her hair kept falling into bloody wounds, so she cut it... (full context)
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When Hana first arrived at the villa, she was one of four nurses, two doctors, and 100... (full context)
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The next day, while sitting in the garden, Hana offers to remove Caravaggio’s bandages. After all, she is a nurse, she says. He is... (full context)
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As Hana inspects Caravaggio’s hands, she tells him that she used to think of him as the... (full context)
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Hana and Caravaggio suddenly become aware of the English patient shouting, and Hana immediately runs up... (full context)
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Later that night, Hana pulls The Last of the Mohicans off of the library shelf and begins to write... (full context)
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That night, after the English patient falls asleep, Hana slips from his room and goes downstairs. She suddenly feels claustrophobic, and a storm is... (full context)
Chapter III. Sometime a Fire
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...to dismantling the bombs left behind by the retreating Germans. He is always polite, and Hana watches as he takes his shirt off to bathe in a small basin of rainwater,... (full context)
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...uniform. The uniform is “immaculate,” and his shoes are always polished to a high shine. Hana thinks that Kip is “unconsciously in love with his body,” and he moves with a... (full context)
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...his time lately. He is so distracted by the books, he doesn’t at first notice Hana sleeping on the couch. He sneezes suddenly, and she opens her eyes. They talk a... (full context)
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Patrick must have died not long after the baby, Caravaggio says to Hana. Yes, she says, but she wasn’t aware that Caravaggio knew about her father. He says... (full context)
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Caravaggio asks Hana when she stopped talking to the baby, but she can’t really remember. Things got so... (full context)
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After about a week, Hana and Caravaggio grow more used to Kip’s strange eating habits. He sits with Hana and... (full context)
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Sitting at the table with Hana and Caravaggio, Kip thinks everything looks “temporary,” as if nothing is permanent. He looks down... (full context)
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...take a cart into the village to pick up some flour, and they talk about Hana to avoid talking about themselves. Caravaggio tells Kip that he has known Hana for years,... (full context)
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As Hana leaves the room, she thinks about Patrick. She wonders what his death was like. Did... (full context)
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Later, Hana sits reading Kim by Rudyard Kipling to the English patient. He asks her to slow... (full context)
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As Hana flips through The Histories, she reads some of the English patient’s personal writing. He writes... (full context)
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Inside the villa, Hana carries a large mirror down the upstairs hallway. The English patient wants to see himself.... (full context)
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When Hana gets to the field, she can see Kip standing near a tree with his hands... (full context)
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Kip offers to tape the wires to the tree so Hana can leave, but she refuses. She doesn’t think the wires will reach, so she will... (full context)
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Hana is speaking, but Kip doesn’t hear her. He begins to shake. Hana repeats herself. She... (full context)
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Under the tree, Hana sleeps deeply with her head on Kip’s chest. He is irritated that she had stayed... (full context)
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As he watches Hana sleep, Kip is wide awake, wondering why he can never sleep. He thinks about a... (full context)
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Caravaggio places a record on the gramophone and declares it time to dance. Hana looks at Kip sitting in the window alcove. She wants to dance with Kip, she... (full context)
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Kip doesn’t believe in books the same way Hana does. As Hana watches Kip stand at the English patient’s bedside, she thinks of the... (full context)
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...Kip removes his shoes and silently goes upstairs. He finds the English patient sleeping and Hana sitting near his bed. She puts her finger to her lips, telling Kip to be... (full context)
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...entire life. He thinks that he must find out who the English patient is, for Hana’s sake at least. Back in Cairo during the war, Caravaggio learned to take on false... (full context)
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The next day, after Hana goes to the English patient’s room to read, he asks her to put down the... (full context)
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Caravaggio, who is high on morphine, sits with Kip and Hana, and asks them if they think it is possible to fall in love with someone... (full context)
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Hana tells Caravaggio to stop talking. After all, with the English patient upstairs, they already have... (full context)
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Caravaggio tells Hana and Kip that they should all just leave the villa, but Hana refuses to leave... (full context)
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In the middle of the night, Hana walks quietly down to Kip’s tent. Hana knows that Kip loves her, even though he... (full context)
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Kip thinks Hana is “remarkable.” He loves her face and the sound of her voice as she disagrees... (full context)
Chapter IV. South Cairo 1930-1938
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Hana sits by the English patient’s bed and listens to his stories of the desert. In... (full context)
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The English patient tells Hana that his first desert exploration was in 1930 with a fellow explorer named Madox. They... (full context)
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...desert, the explorers were “nationless,” and the English patient grew to hate nations. He tells Hana that the world is “deformed by nation-states” and that Madox had “died because of nations.”... (full context)
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The English patient tells Hana that the end of the Earth is not a point on a map; maps simply... (full context)
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...name occurs in Arab writings as early as the 13th century. The English patient tells Hana that he doesn’t think Geoffrey loved the desert quite in the same way he does,... (full context)
Chapter VI. A Buried Plane
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After Hana injects the English patient with another dose of morphine, he begins to tell her about... (full context)
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Later, Caravaggio tells Hana a story about a Hungarian named Almásy who aided the Germans during the war. Almásy... (full context)
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Hana is dubious and tells Caravaggio that his suspicions about the English patient are ridiculous. Caravaggio... (full context)
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Hana tells Caravaggio that it makes no difference who the English patient is. After all, she... (full context)
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Later, Hana enters the English patient’s room to find Kip standing at his bedside. The English patient... (full context)
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Kip tells Hana and the English patient about his time as a sapper, diffusing bombs all over Europe.... (full context)
Chapter VII. In Situ
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“Lord Suffolk was the best of the English,” Kip tells Hana. While in England, Kip quickly found the best places to drink tea, and Lord Suffolk... (full context)
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...Hardy but insisted on diffusing the bomb alone. The bomb was a “trick,” Kip tells Hana. He was lucky to have figured it out, but he had loved Lord Suffolk, and... (full context)
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Kip tells Hana about his older brother, who refused to fight in the war. “He refused to agree... (full context)
Chapter VIII. The Holy Forest
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...the villa, Caravaggio accidentally knocks a fuse box off a table as he turns towards Hana’s voice in the hallway. Kip slides seamlessly to the ground and catches the bomb in... (full context)
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...their hair. They use kerosene to get out the lice and then rinse with water. Hana watches Kip as he lays with his hair spread out to dry. Through Kip, Hana... (full context)
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As Kip’s hair dries, he again tells Hana about his brother, who refused to fight with the British. Kip’s brother said that Kip... (full context)
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At 2:00 in the morning, Hana blows out the candle and leaves the English patient’s room. As she climbs the 36... (full context)
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In the library, Hana lays on the couch and Caravaggio sneaks across the room in the dark. He reaches... (full context)
Chapter IX. The Cave of Swimmers
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The English patient tells Hana and Caravaggio, that when he first met Katharine, she was a married woman. When Geoffrey... (full context)
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...came to the villa to finally apprehend him. No, Caravaggio says. He came to find Hana, since he has known her since before the war. In fact, the truth is that... (full context)
Chapter X. August
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Caravaggio enters the kitchen of the villa, where Hana sits quietly. She asks him how the English patient is, and Caravaggio tells her that... (full context)
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Caravaggio tells Hana that he would like to tell her a story for her birthday, but Hana doesn’t... (full context)
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As Hana, Caravaggio, and Kip eat and drink, they toast each other and the English patient. Kip... (full context)
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As they talk, Kip is interested in hearing stories about Hana, but she steers Caravaggio away from any stories from her childhood. She wants Kip to... (full context)
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“This is for you,” Hana says to Kip as she begins to sing the “Marseillaise,” letting her voice drift all... (full context)
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At night in Kip’s tent, Hana and Kip often talk until the sun comes up. Resting on Hana’s neck while she... (full context)
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Hana loves spending time with Kip, but she does not think that can give herself completely... (full context)
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...around 7:00, at which time a thunderstorm will begin, if there is to be one. Hana and Caravaggio watch Kip return each night as he walks to his tent, not sure... (full context)
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 Hana looks down to the field from the villa and sees Kip grab his head. She... (full context)
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Kip passes Hana sitting in the kitchen and goes to the stairs, taking three at a time. The... (full context)
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...the earphones on the burned head of the English patient, who winces at his touch. Hana and Caravaggio enter the room as the English patient hears of the bombs dropped on... (full context)
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...the “deal makers,” the “contract makers,” the “map drawers,” and they are cannot be trusted. Hana and Caravaggio ask what is going on, and Kip tells them to listen to the... (full context)
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...never have been dropped “on a white nation.” Kip leaves the room, leaving Caravaggio and Hana behind. In the future, if and when the English patient dies, Hana and Caravaggio know... (full context)
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Hana can see Kip standing outside his tent and watches him disappear into the chapel. Inside,... (full context)
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Hana writes Clara a letter. This is the first letter Hana has written in years, and... (full context)
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On the Triumph, Kip arrives in Ortona. He does not allow himself to think of Hana as he rides, but he does, however, carry the English patient with him, who sits... (full context)
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Years later, Kirpal Singh still thinks about Hana. He is a doctor now, with two kids and a wife. Sitting in his garden... (full context)
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...and they live a life of comfort in their traditional “customs and habits.”  In Canada, Hana is 34 years old, and she still thinks of the English patient and the words... (full context)