Powerful Paragraphs

Powerful Paragraph #1

Caravaggio watches Hana, who sits across from him looking into his eyes, trying to read him, trying to figure the flow of thought the way his wife used to do. He watches her sniffing him out, searching for the trace. He buries it and looks back at her, knowing his eyes are faultless, clear as any river, unimpeachable as a landscape. People, he knows, get lost in them, and he is able to hide well. But the girl watches him quizzically, tilting her head in a question as a dog would when spoken to in a tone or pitch that is not human. She sits across from him in front of the dark, blood-red walls, whose colour he doesn’t like, and in her black hair and with that look, slim, tanned olive from all the light in this country, she reminds him of his wife.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje

I chose this as a powerful paragraph because of the lyrical prose. In these few sentences Ondaatje sketches out an air of mystery and loss and tension through intense descriptive detail. The paragraph begins and ends with a mention of Caravaggio’s wife and a comparison between Hana and his wife. You don’t have to know the backstory of what has happened to his wife or how he has ended up where he is to feel the gut punch of this association.