Summary – Chapter Six
This chapter begins with Hana giving the patient morphine, and it races in him. The narrative then cuts back to Cairo and then March 1937 when the “patient” asked his colleague, Madox, what the name is for the hollow at the base of a woman’s neck. Madox muttered, ‘pull yourself together’. That was his way of warning him not to pursue Katherine.
The focus then moves forward to the present to Caravaggio. He is telling Hana a story about a Hungarian named Almásy who worked for the Germans during the war. He had been one of the great desert explorers. He knew all about the desert and the waterholes and dialects, and Caravaggio asks if this sounds familiar. He pushes the point and says he does not think the English patient is English. Hana disputes this, but he reminds her of the night they were trying to name the dog (and after he gave the patient extra morphine).
He thinks three of the eight names (Cicero, Zarzura and Delilah) the patient gave were revealing. He tells her that Cicero was a code name for a spy and Zerzura is ‘more complicated’. He continues and explains that Count Ladislaus de Almásy was a spy helper and guided Eppler (who used Du Maurier’s Rebecca as a code book) from Tripoli to Cairo. Almásy had English friends before the war but went with the Germans when war broke out. Caravaggio knows of these things as he had been based in Cairo.
He also tells her how the man who helped catch Eppler was named Samson (which links to Delilah) and adds that Almásy could fly, went to school in England (and so could sound English) and in Cairo he was referred to as ‘the English spy’.
Hana says they should leave him be and that it does not matter which side he was on. She refuses to give the patient extra morphine to find out more about him, so Caravaggio says he will give him a Brompton cocktail (of morphine and alcohol).
The narrative then cuts to Caravaggio talking to ‘the English patient’ (and in parenthesis it says ‘3 cc’s Brompton Cocktail 3.00 pm). Caravaggio asks him about what happened in 1942 and the patient under the influence of morphine and alcohol begins to talk very freely about himself and the events that led up to his plane crash. He says how he had been to Cairo and was returning from there. Alone and miles away from the Gilf Kebir, his truck exploded and he headed on foot for Uweinat where he knew Madox had left a buried plane. Throughout his narration, he does not refer to himself by name.
After four nights, he found the plane near a place called Ain Dua and was able to dig it out. By coincidence, it was where three years ealier, Katharine had been seriously wounded in a plane crash. piloted by her husband. Almasy who was waiting to be picked up by Clifford saw the plane flying erradically witnessed the crash, realized that Clifford had planned this suicide and murder but could not prevent it. Clifford died instantly, Almasy was unharmed and pulled Katharine out of the wreckage. She was very seriously hurt and he had to leave her as she was unable to be moved. He left her in a cave and went for help. Circumstances prevented him from getting back to her quickly and when he finally was able to return three years later, it was too late. He found her body inside the Cave of Swimmers where he had left her. He approached her naked, and ultimately made love to her body. He dressed, carried her body into the sun, and put the corpse into the plane.
During take off, oil leaked from the plane onto his knees and a fire started. Katharine’s corpse collapsed like acacia twigs, leaves and branches. He felt exhausted from solitude and was suddenly old and tired of living without her. He slipped into the parachute harness and was in the air ‘bright’, and then realized he was on fire.
The narrative cuts back to the present. Hana hearing voices in the patient’s room, goes to him and finds Kip talking to him. The patient describes himself and Kip as ‘international bastards’. He sucks condensed milk from an opening made in the tin, and Kip says he must have been raised elsewhere as the English do not do that. The patient says he learned everything he knew in the desert: ‘Everything that ever happened to me that was important happened in the desert.’ He also knows Kip’s teacher, Lord Suffolk, and his secretary Miss Morden (who are both now dead).
Analysis – Chapter Six
The identity of the so-called English patient begins to be formed as Caravaggio explains how he thinks he is actually the spy helper, Almásy. He first tells Hana of his views and it is apparent that she would rather not know. This demonstrates once more how she does not want to be tied to the past or still be caught up in the detritus of war.
Kip also makes a passing reference to how the patient could not have been raised in England (because of the way he drinks condensed milk) but at this time the patient continues to evade questions concerning his identity.
His point that he and Kip are ‘international bastards’ is notable and has some truth to it, though, as both men (as well as Hana and Caravaggio) may finally be seen to have been caught up in a war that has determined their present and futures.