Anil's Ghost Hardcover – 22 Apr 2000
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Anil's Ghost is Michael Ondaatje's eagerly awaited follow-up to his classic Booker prize-winning novel The English Patient. Drawing on Ondaatje's own Sri Lankan heritage, wonderfully explored in his travel narrative Running in the Family, Anil's Ghost is located in contemporary Sri Lanka, in the midst of interminable internecine civil war between government forces, separatist Tamils and antigovernment insurgents.
The novel's action revolves around Anil Tissera, a young forensic anthropologist, born in Sri Lanka but educated in Europe and America, who "had courted foreignness", and "was at ease whether on the Bakerloo line or on the highways around Santa Fe". Anil returns to the country of her birth after 15 years on a United Nations sponsored investigation into the escalating number of politically motivated murders engulfing the island. As Anil begins to realise the scale of the murder and horror which her investigations reveal, it becomes clear that "the darkest Greek tragedies were innocent compared with what was happening here". She reluctantly teams up with Sarath Diyasena, "the archaeologist selected by the government" to investigate a particularly sensitive murder; skeletons discovered buried in the Bandarawela caves, one of the most archaeologically sensitive sites in the entire country. One skeleton in particular fascinates both Anil and Sarath. Simply known as "Sailor", the quest for the skeleton's identity sucks both Anil and Sarath into the terrifying heart of darkness which makes up contemporary Sri Lankan politics. Ondaatje reflects upon the ancient history of Sri Lanka through the fragments of history and identity that Anil and Sarath uphold in the face of the murder and chaos which surrounds them.
Although Anil's Ghost is a poetic and beautifully written book, it is also a tough, uncompromising and brave novel about a terrifying conflict that the world has chosen to ignore. --Jerry Brotton --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
When forensic anthropologist Anil Tissera returns to Sri Lanka she finds the country ravaged by civil war. She has been sent there to investigate the organised murder campaigns that have engulfed the island and what follows is a story of love, family and identity and a quest to unlock the hidden past. Superb reviews for this new novel by the author of the Booker Prize winning The English Patient. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.See all Product Description
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Top Customer Reviews
The first half is particularly good setting the scene in Sri Lanka in a state of civil war and the descriptions of the lives of the medical staff are particularly involving and moving. He also does a good job of setting all this in the historical background.
However, about 2/3rds of the way through Ondaatjie seems to loose interest in his nominal 'plot' -the search for the identity of a skeleton found by the main protagonists. We then get a long digression into the life of what had previously been a minor character. When we finally get back to the plot it ends in such a perfuctory way that I was left with a feeling of is that it?
Some wonderful writing, but a lack of coherent structure or plot, plus characters who remain somewhat enigmatic means that the whole thing is much less involving and moving than you might expect.
Maybye the whole thing works much better if you know something about Sri Lanka?
Where Ondaatje excells is in describing the terminally complex politics of the island in a way that is at least accessible to the layman. In this respect there can be little doubt that this is one of the most readable novels of the period, but often seems to be displaced from the reality of the daily Sri Lankan experience. Quite simply, were it not for the names, it could be anywhere.
The device of Anil's name itself is a nice one, with the character choosing the name for herself, somewhat like Sri Lanka, formerly Ceylon, formally Serendipity, nee Lanka, and sometimes Shri Lanka. It is an aspect of the novel which could have been developed far more. But this is one of the many problems with the novel. The only way to tell such a story is by stripping it down to the bare bones. Yes, it is poetic and subtle, and manages to avoid the mire of Sri Lankan politics, but in doing so it also looses its identity as a novel about Sri Lanka.
The one real difficulty that I have with the novel is that, while it illustrates the horrors of the island, it does so at the expense of the reality. Sri Lanka has a sense of humour, but that is never conveyed in the text and makes it seem that we all live in terminal fear. Indeed, Anil defines her autopsies by the 'fear gland'.Read more ›
I lived the scenes and the matter of fact way that so much human devastation was a cold fact of life. I enjoyed the relationships as they developed and the turmoil of Anil's journey through her work, but I missed the links. Perhaps I am too simplistic in my expectations for a novel, but I needed more continuity in the story and a way to draw it all together. Ondaatje is clearly a professional writer and deserves the awards he has receieved. It's just that in Anil's Ghost I thought I would be captivated and absorbed and the truth is I was not.
This is not "The English Patient", but why should anyone wish to read the same novel in different guise. What one should ask of any writer is that they give us something fresh each time. Ondaatje does this. What is Ondaatjean is the texture of the prose, his facination with the details of processes - in 'The English Patient' it is bomb disposal, here it is in the artists processes for painting the eyes of the buddha (perhaps a metaphor for the situation in Sri Lanka at the present and how people have to deal with it, for if the statue of the buddha has no eyes painted or carved in, then he has not taken up residence and cannot see). It is in the forensic archeology, in the bones.
This is a quiet novel about unquiet times and worth your attention.
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Having left Sri Lanka to train in the West, forensic anthropologist Anil Tissera has been selected by an international human rights group to investigate possible atrocities... Read morePublished 7 days ago by Antenna
It took me until well over a third of the book to start enjoying reading it. Before I was struggling, because like Anil who couldn't get a handle on Sarath, I couldn't get a handle... Read morePublished 3 months ago by Four Violets
In some ways this felt slight (plotwise), disjointed and inconsequential (nothing much really happens in the end), but it's full of evocative images and I was fascinated by the... Read morePublished 5 months ago by S Litton
Anil is a forensic archaeologist, Sri Lankan by birth and returning to the nation of her birth as part of an international scheme of cooperation to investigate murders. Read morePublished 10 months ago by MisterHobgoblin
Great subject matter (civil war in Sri Lanka ), but this was not a story,but a series of fictitious anecdotes. No character development, no exploration of motivation etcPublished on 13 Aug. 2013 by Kindle Customer
Set in Sri Lanka, a story about loss, trust, the past and letting go. Tells the story of the atrocities of the civil war in Sri Lanka while the central character comes back to her... Read morePublished on 4 Feb. 2013 by Amazon Customer
A delicate and awfully sad piece. Written with elegance but at the same time intense emotivity. I would have expected nothing less from such an author. Read morePublished on 29 Mar. 2011 by Bellini45
It must be a painful experience for a writer to witness the meltdown of his or her country of origin from the comfort of exile. Read morePublished on 17 Dec. 2009 by Trevor Coote