TITLE: THE ENGLISH PATIENT
AUTHOR: MICHAEL ONDAATJE
PUBLISHER: KNOPF; 307 PAGES; $21
THE BOTTOM LINE: A hauntingly beautiful tale weaves myths and metaphors around the end of Empire.
FOUR FIGURES MOVE LIKE SHADows through an abandoned villa. All four of them have converged on this Tuscan space, without lives or real identities, in the limbo at the end of war. All four pass in and out of consciousness, half- daydreaming in a crumbling palace "lit only by candlelight and now and then light from a storm, now and then the possible light from an explosion." One of them is an "English...