Anil's Ghost

Anil's Ghost

by Michael Ondaatje


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With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Booker Prize—winning author Michael Ondaatje gives us a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language and the piercing emotional truth that we have come to know as the hallmarks of his writing.

Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri Lanka, a country steeped in centuries of tradition, now forced into the late twentieth century by the ravages of civil war. Into this maelstrom steps Anil Tissera, a young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America, who returns to her homeland as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. What follows is a story about love, about family, about identity, about the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past–a story propelled by a riveting mystery. Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka’s landscape and ancient civilization, Anil’s Ghost is a literary spellbinder–Michael Ondaatje’s most powerful novel yet.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780786227914
Publisher: Gale Group
Publication date: 09/28/2001
Series: Basic Series
Pages: 443
Product dimensions: 5.26(w) x 8.32(h) x 0.71(d)

About the Author

Michael Ondaatje is the author of three previous novels, a memoir and eleven books of poetry. His novel The English Patient won the Booker Prize. Born in Sri Lanka, he moved to Canada in 1962 and now lives in Toronto.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

She arrived in early March, the plane landing at Katunayake airport before the dawn. They had raced it ever since coming over the west coast of India, so that now passengers stepped onto the tarmac in the dark.

By the time she was out of the terminal the sun had risen. In the West she'd read, The dawn comes up like thunder, and she knew she was the only one in the classroom to recognize the phrase physically. Though it was never abrupt thunder to her. It was first of all the noise of chickens and carts and modest morning rain or a man squeakily cleaning the windows with newspaper in another part of the house.

As soon as her passport with the light-blue UN bar was processed, a young official approached and moved alongside her. She struggled with her suitcases but he offered no help.

'How long has it been? You were born here, no?'

'Fifteen years.'

'You still speak Sinhala?'

'A little. Look, do you mind if I don't talk in the car on the way into Colombo — I'm jet-lagged. I just want to look. Maybe drink some toddy before it gets too late. Is Gabriel's Saloon still there for head massages?'

'In Kollupitiya, yes. I knew his father.'

'My father knew his father too.'

Without touching a single suitcase he organized the loading of the bags into the car. 'Toddy!' He laughed, continuing his conversation. 'First thing after fifteen years. The return of the prodigal.'

'I'm not a prodigal.'

An hour later he shook hands energetically with her at the door of the small house they had rented for her.

'There's a meeting tomorrow with Mr. Diyasena.'

'Thank you.'

'You havefriends here, no?'

'Not really.'

Anil was glad to be alone. There was a scattering of relatives in Colombo, but she had not contacted them to let them know she was returning. She unearthed a sleeping pill from her purse, turned on the fan, chose a sarong and climbed into bed. The thing she had missed most of all were the fans. After she had left Sri Lanka at eighteen, her only real connection was the new sarong her parents sent her every Christmas (which she dutifully wore), and news clippings of swim meets. Anil had been an exceptional swimmer as a teenager, and the family never got over it; the talent was locked to her for life. As far as Sri Lankan families were concerned, if you were a well-known cricketer you could breeze into a career in business on the strength of your spin bowling or one famous inning at the Royal-Thomian match. Anil at sixteen had won the two-mile swim race that was held by the Mount Lavinia Hotel.

Each year a hundred people ran into the sea, swam out to a buoy a mile away and swam back to the same beach, the fastest male and the fastest female fêted in the sports pages for a day or so. There was a photograph of her walking out of the surf that January morning — which The Observer had used with the headline 'Anil Wins It!' and which her father kept in his office. It had been studied by every distant member of the family (those in Australia, Malaysia and England, as well as those on the island), not so much because of her success but for her possible good looks now and in the future. Did she look too large in the hips?

The photographer had caught Anil's tired smile in the photograph, her right arm bent up to tear off her rubber swimming cap, some out-of-focus stragglers (she had once known who they were). The black-and-white picture had remained an icon in the family for too long.

She pushed the sheet down to the foot of the bed and lay there in the darkened room, facing the waves of air. The island no longer held her by the past. She'd spent the fifteen years since ignoring that early celebrity. Anil had read documents and news reports, full of tragedy, and she had now lived abroad long enough to interpret Sri Lanka with a long-distance gaze. But here it was a more complicated world morally. The streets were still streets, the citizens remained citizens. They shopped, changed jobs, laughed. Yet the darkest Greek tragedies were innocent compared with what was happening here. Heads on stakes. Skeletons dug out of a cocoa pit in Matale. At university Anil had translated lines from Archilochus — In the hospitality of war we left them their dead to remember us by. But here there was no such gesture to the families of the dead, not even the information of who the enemy was.

Reading Group Guide

The questions, discussion topics, and suggested reading list that follow are intended to enhance your group's reading and discussion of Michael Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost, his first novel since the internationally acclaimed and Booker Prize winner The English Patient. A literary spellbinder which unfolds against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization, Anil's Ghost is a story about love, family, identity, the unknown enemy, and the quest to unlock the hidden past—a powerful story propelled by a riveting mystery.

1. Juxtapositions and fragments are central to the style and structure of Anil's Ghost. The novel opens with a scene in italics, in which we are introduced to Anil as part of a team of scientists unearthing the bodies of missing people in Guatemala. Then there is a brief scene in which Anil arrives in Sri Lanka to begin her investigation for the human rights group. This is followed by another scene in italics, describing "the place of a complete crime"—a place where Buddhist cave sculptures were "cut out of the walls with axes and saws" [p. 12]. How do these sections—upon which the author does not comment—work together, and what is the cumulative effect of such brief scenes?

2. Why is the story of how Anil got her name [pp. 67-8] important to the construction of her character? Does it imply that she has created an identity for herself, based on fierce internal promptings, that is at odds with her parents' wishes for her? Is Anil's personality well-suited to the conditions in which she finds herself in Sri Lanka?

3. Forensic expertise such as Anil's often occupies a central place in the mystery genre—as in the popular Kay Scarpetta mysteries by Patricia Cornwell or in the Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. In what ways does Anil's Ghost fit into the genre of mystery fiction, and how does it transcend such a classification?

4. How does the section called "The Grove of Ascetics" extend the novel's exploration of the meaning of history? What is the relevance, if any, of Palipana's knowledge? How does the ancient culture of the island relate to its present situation? Does the past have permanence?

5. If you have read The English Patient, how does Anil's Ghost compare with that novel? Is it similar, with its focus on war, on history, on how people behave in dangerous political situations—or is it quite different?

6. What does Anil's affair with Cullis, as well as what we learn about her marriage, tell us about her passion and her sensuality? Given her past, is it surprising that there is no romantic involvement for her in this story?

7. Michael Ondaatje has published many books of poetry; how do the style and structure of this novel exhibit the poetic sensibility of its author?

8. Is there a single or multiple meaning behind the "ghost" of the book's title? Who or what is Anil's Ghost?

9. Why are Anil, Sarath, and Gamini so consumed by their work? What parts of their lives are they necessarily displacing or postponing for the sake of their work? Is the choice of professional over personal life the correct one, ethically speaking, within the terms of this novel?

10. Does the story of Gamini's childhood provide an adequate explanation for the rivalry between him and Sarath? Or is the rivalry caused solely by the fact that as adults they both loved the same woman? Does Sarath's wife love Gamini rather than her husband? Which of the two brothers is the more admirable one?

11. As Anil thinks about the mystery of Sailor's death, the narrator tells us, "She used to believe that meaning allowed a person a door to escape grief and fear. But she saw that those who were slammed and stained by violence lost the power of language and logic" [p. 55]. How does this insight about the loss of language and logic explain Ananda's behavior? Is Anil's search for "meaning" ultimately to be seen as naive within a context which, as the narrator tells us, "The reason for war was war" [p. 43]?

12. The acknowledgments at the end of the book tell us that the names of people who disappeared (mentioned on p. 41) are taken from an actual list in Amnesty International reports (see p. 310). Similarly, the description of the assassination of the president [pp. 291-95] is based on true events, though the president's name has been changed. Why does Ondaatje insert the names of real people, and the real situations in which they died or disappeared, in a work of fiction?

13. Certain tersely narrated episodes convey the terrifying strangeness of Sri Lanka's murderous atmosphere. About the bicycle incident he witnessed, in which the person being kidnapped was forced to embrace his captor as he was taken away, Sarath says, "It was this necessary intimacy that was disturbing" [p. 154]. Another scene describes Anil and Sarath's rescue of the crucified Gunesena; another the disappearance of Ananda's wife. How does Ondaatje's handling of these three separate examples of violence and its victims make the reader understand the horror of living with politically-motivated murder as an everyday reality?

14. What are the elements that give such emotional power to the scene in which Gamini examines and tends to the body of his murdered brother?

15. Given the crisis that occurs when Anil testifies about Sailor at the hospital, has she brought about more harm than good? If so, is she ultimately to be seen as an outsider who has intruded in a situation she doesn't fully understand? Is Sarath the true hero of the novel, and does he sacrifice his life for hers?

16. The novel ends with a chapter called "Distance," in which a vandalized statue of Buddha is reconstructed and Ananda, the artisan, is given the task of sculpting the god's eyes. Does this religious ceremony cast the novel's ending in a positive or hopeful light? How important is the theme of Buddhism, and the presence of the Buddha's gaze, throughout this story?

17. How does Ondaatje manage to convey a powerful sense of place in this novel? What are the details that communicate Sri Lanka's unique geographical and cultural identity?

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Anil's Ghost 3.5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 51 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Ondaatji, the author of The English Patient, reveals key points in the worldwide search for hidden graves through a tough, dedicated and incredibly focused heroine. This struggle for human rights comes vividly alive through a lush and moving history of Sri Lanka, ever a victim of arms dealers. A deeply emotional and intense tale.
Romonko on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Our world is a dangerous place and in various places and various times throughout history it remains so, even in the present day. As a world community we have not learned very much in our centuries of existence. This book is a testament to that ever-present danger. The setting is in Sri-Lanka during the 1980's and 1990's when there was much political upheaval and political unrest. Ondaatje paints a chilling picture of the everyday world that ordinary citizens lived in at this time. People disappeared constantly, sometimes never to be found and other times buried in mass graves where they would be discovered someday. The protaganist in this story is a female forensic anthropologist, Anil, who is a native of Sri Lanka, but who has lived and studied in the western world for a number of years. The novel weaves seamlessly between past and present as Anil and her co-worker Sareth try to identify a modern-day skeleton found in an ancient grave site. There is so much danger and so many people trying to keep terrible secrets that it threatens Anil and Sareth. This is a very powerful book about what it is like to live in a country with political upheaval. It is really scary to read it and know that this happens over and over again in various parts of our world.
mariamreza on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good in highlighting the human cost of the Sri Lankan civil war, but otherwise this book was difficult to get into due to the disjointed chronology of Ondaatje's narration as well as fairly uninteresting characters.
miyurose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This was one of those books that I only pushed through because I was reading it for book club. And even then, I didn¿t finish it completely, getting the gist of the end from others in the club. There was just so much of the book I didn¿t care about. Some parts were interesting, but others just seemed to be there as a writing exercise.I generally read a book like this because I want to learn more about the event in the background, in this case, the Sri Lankan civil war. But I really came out of it no more knowledgeable than I was going in, and even worse, it didn¿t even ignite a desire to learn more from other sources. The war and its circumstances really get lost in all of Anil¿s¿ stuff.The one positive thing I can say about the book is that it really is beautifully written. I just wish those beautiful words were woven into a more cohesive and interesting story.
SeriousGrace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anil's Ghost is the clever weaving of fact and fiction. In the mid-1980s Sri Lanka was in a state of civil unrest. It went beyond a north versus south conflict and involved illegal government activity. Anil's Ghost is the fictional account set in the middle of a political and historical truth.Anil Tissera is a forensic anthropologist returning to Sri Lanka after a fifteen year absence. As part of a human rights organization she is obligated to investigate and ultimately uncover the truth about ethnic and religious killings occuring during the country's civil war. Her entire attention is focussed on one particular skeleton she nicknames "Sailor." His remains have been found in an ancient burial ground and yet anthropologically he is considered a contemporary. Upon arriving in Sri Lanka she is paired with man she doesn't know if she can trust. Sarath is quiet and keeps many secrets. What is amazing about Anil's Ghost is the lush language and the intricate character development. Each chapter is dedicated to the unfolding of someone's life, past and present. This technique brings a fullness to the storyline. In the end you feel as if every character has purpose to the plot.
ilovecookies on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Good story but a little hard to follow.
fiverivers on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Ondaatje is a master of subtlety, of the ambiguity of life, of the grey that washes extreme situations. He is at his best in Anil's Ghost. The story itself is a simple one: a woman (Anil) searches for the identity of a skeleton she finds when on an international human rights mission in war ravaged Sri Lanka. But as with most stories Ondaatje tells, simplicity becomes weighted with the emotional enganglements of both political and personal history. There is a conversation beneath the dialogue, a narrative never told but eloquent in its silence. In some ways, I was reminded of Geoff Ryman's The King's Last Song. There is that same sense of a country unable to celebrate its vibrant history, left only with silent screams of those slaughtered on the altar of political expedience, and their ghosts. There is an eeriness in the environment Ondaatje creates. Deserving of it accolades, Anil's Ghost is a masterpiece.
inurbana on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anil's Ghost is a beautiful, albeit difficult, novel, but one well worth the effort. It's a quiet book, with some of its most important themes left unsaid, but one of the great things about this book is how information is revealed...or not. Ondaatje's prose is magnificent, and some of the best that I've read. It has a sensuality to it that sometimes seems at odd with his grizzly subject matter, but it really works. The character themselves feel very real, despite the reader's brief time spent with them. You know you've read good characterization when you're aching for more of these people after the novel ends. Ultimately, I found the most important theme of the novel to be about identity. Sri Lanka's national identity engulfed in violence, Anil and Sarath's quest to uncover the identities of others, Gamini's life defined by his identity as a doctor, and so many more brilliant facets of this same idea. I picked Anil's Ghost up as a whim and found a treasure sandwiched between its covers.
ElizabethPisani on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Captivating and deeply unsettling. Beautifully written, of course. If you read this before you first visit Sri Lanka you'll find that it flavours your perceptions in some intangible but persistent way, like butter that's been sitting next to onions in the fridge.
kcslade on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
OK story about a Sri Lankan female forensics expert. Much philosophizing.
ericap32 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A gorgeous and deeply moving novel that moves seamlessly in and out of different cultures and different character's lives. It is partly a mystery, partly a meditation on love, partly a lament of the horrors of war. There is a scene describing a public suicide bombing that made more of an impression on me than all the news stories and footage I've seen in an entire lifetime.Pure Ondaatje: prose so beautiful and full of longing and regret, it gives me a lump in my throat just thinking about it.Highly recommended.
eas311 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I love pretty much everything about Michael Ondaatje.
browner56 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anil Tissera, a forensic pathologist who works on human rights causes, has returned to her native Sri Lanka after an absence of 15 years. Her homeland is immersed in a bloody and protracted civil war that has devastated the country and left no one unscathed. Working with Sarath Diyasena, a local archeologist of questionable political allegiances, Anil discovers a modern-day skeleton in an ancient burial site controlled by the government. Can solving this single apparent murder make up for all the atrocities her country has suffered?¿Anil¿s Ghost¿ is ultimately a murder mystery, but one that is told with uncommon style and grace. Michael Ondaatje is an accomplished poet and his prose shimmers with the same lyrical quality as his verses. The problem with the novel for me, though, is that the story itself is not particularly interesting or engaging. The central themes of love, loss, and betrayal are certainly woven well, but there is too little that actually happens to move the story forward in a compelling way and some of the characters¿including Anil regrettably¿seem underdeveloped. For Ondaatje, a native Sri Lankan himself, the subject matter of this book is so clearly personal that it is difficult not to be moved by his passion. The urgency with which he creates words and images underscoring the senselessness of war is evident throughout. Nevertheless, this was not a wholly satisfying reading experience for me. In fact, I found it impossible not to compare this novel to ¿The English Patient,¿ the author¿s more renowned earlier work that addresses some of the same subject matter. Unfortunately, although I ultimately was not disappointed, reading ¿Anil¿s Ghost¿ suffers from that comparison.
petescisco on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Set in the bloody confusion and treachery of the Sri Lankan civil war, readers confront issues of trust, betrayal, honor, and hope. Surprising and believable in its depiction of human corruption and sacrifice, two extremes that do so much to define our species.
gward101 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
He may be best known as the writer behind The English Patient but Michael Ondaatje is an accomplished poet too and it shows in the hauntingly beautiful prose of Anil's Ghost. It is a beauty which contrasts sharply with the book's grim subject matter. In his follow-up novel to The English Patient the Sri Lankan-born author takes us back to his homeland to reveal a country torn apart by civil war in which killings are commonplace and unexplained 'disappearances' are an everyday occurrence. Into the midst of this bloody conflict steps forensic anthropologist Anil Tissera, a woman who was born in Sri Lanka but has been living and working abroad. Tasked by an international human rights group with investigating the death squads seemingly roaming the country at will, Anil embarks on a quest to identify a modern-day skeleton discovered at an archaeological site and find out how and why the man died - no matter where that investigation might take her or at what cost.
paulmorriss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Not quite as good as the reviews on the cover say, but a very involving story set against a sad backdrop.
Periodista on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I'd like to second wordlikeabell's review below. She says, "I found myself frustrated by this book and I wonder if I would have been if I had read it." Nope, I read it rather than listened to it and I wondered if I had inadvertently skipped some parts.This too: "It is a quietly terrifying book. Perhaps it reads as a bit numb. Perhaps there is no other way to approach the subject matter of one's country slaughtering itself. Ditto aggravation with the boyfriend--and the female friend with Alzheimer''s. What again happened to her parents? Where's her brother (No other friends or relatives--*in a country like Sri Lanka*?). She speaks nothing but English. Has she supposedly forgotten Sinhala and/or Tamil in 15 years?Sarath near the end notes that she's finally uses "us" to include herself among Sri Lankans. Well, yeah, there's a very weird, not believable, disjunction here; One might feel this way if returning after 40 years but. But a bigger problem is that I didn't pick up that he had noted this previously. Of course, anyone, even a former native, landing in the midst of civil war or casual murders, has a hard time getting a grip on the rules and dimensions, but that's not what I'm referring to right now.I should warn that you will learn very little about the causes of this terrible war (as if any aren't ...), Sri Lanka's history, the ethnic and religious divides. Very odd that closing chapter with Anand reconstructing a large hillside Buddha image. (Despite the similarities of what the Taliban did in Afghanistan, please note that Sri Lanka doesn't have many Muslims.). There were surprisingly few other Buddhist references in the novel. There's another out-of-kilter scene at the end when the named prime minister is killed in a suicide bombing, very similar to the circumstances in which Rajiv Gandhi was killed. It just doesn't fit with the otherwise vague details of good guys/bad guys/conflicting parties. The dead man Anil has been trying to identify was murdered by govt death squads, right? Which 'the govt" is now trying to hide. So this is the dead pm's policy? Not necessarily. In real life, in real developing countries, a govt can always fob off a death squad on a few rogues, find some bodies to prosecute (and maybe assure light sentences too.) And even the purest of prime minsters in corrupt countries may have little or no power to control the army or elements of the army or paramilitary groups. But does Ondaatje know that? Or does he figure that his readers won't know? There's little in the novel to clue readers in developed countries of how things work. But, hey, maybe he's writing with Indian, Sri Lankan, Latin American readers in mind ...
Niecierpek on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anil¿s Ghost takes place in Sri Lanka during the recent civil war. It is a haunting novel written in a form of extended poetic flashbacks, intermingling with real non-fiction accounts.Anil, an American forensic scientist of Sri Lankan origin, comes back after 15 years to her homeland as a UN inspector. Her task is to check if war atrocities are taking place there. On her arrival, she is sent to work with an elusive government official, an archeologist, Sarath. Working with him on an archeological site in a remote cave, Anil discovers human remains that are much more recent than the rest of the archeological find. From then on both Sarath and Anil conduct a secret hunt for an identity of the body. This takes them to many beautifully described places in Sri Lanka. We cannot be sure, though, what Sarath will do if the identity of the body should be discovered. The book has an eerie beauty to it. The mood is of intense loneliness, but also of eternal charm of nature and culture. The relationships are either destructive or destroyed or people behave in a self destructive way. They behave like the war.The descriptions of war are haunting, but avoid the right or wrong judgments. Perhaps Ondaatje himself expresses it in the best way. ¿I wasn¿t interested in the blame element. Anil is, so I try to write from those small angles where people are not preoccupied with the war but are part of it. People who are in the midst of it, and trying to create peace in that kind of situation.The plot is the excuse for the story ¿ the hook, if you like. The real story is in the surround, in all the corners.¿(Ondaatje in an interview with Noah Richler)
twallace on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An unsettling novel about civil war in Sri Lanka and the efforts of two scientists to expose goverment corruption. Anil, the title character, returns to her native Sri Lanka as an accomplished forensic anthropologist and must face both her past and her future.
Katie_H on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anil leaves her native Sri Lanka at the ago of 18 and returns several years later to a very different country, one ravaged by civil war. She is a forensic anthropologist on a UN human rights assigment, and she is sent to assist in determining the source of the murders that are plaguing the country. Her partner is Sarath, a Sri Lankan anthropologist, who becomes her friend and helps her put the situation in perspective. After some detective work, they locate several skeletons, one of which is nicknamed "Sailor." Through their research, they are able to determine the cause of death, pointing to the sinister role of the government in the atrocities, but now, they must make their research known. Ananda, a man skilled in the sacred work of "eye painting," is another intriguing character presented in the novel. The narrative is lyrical, descriptive, and subtle, but I found myself losing interest often. The plot just did not move quickly enough for my taste, and I did not get a satisfactory feel for the setting of Sri Lanka. In addition to that, the ending was not adequate and left to many ends untied.
sharonk21 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Anil¿s Ghost is a mosaic in three dimensions. Much like the final chapter where the craftsman Anadata takes on the task of restoring a fractured statue of Buddha blown to chunks by a bomb, Michael Ondaatje constructs the story of late twentieth century Sri Lanka and of its historic past by using bits and pieces to depict an impressionist picture of a country and a people whose lives are riven by government, insurgent and rebel violence. The image he produces is lush green, tropical, and spattered with red-red blood; yet despite the visual and iconic quality of the book, in the background another of your senses detects the smell of wood-smoke from the fires of humble homes and campsites dotted around the island land mass.The device of telling the story in mosaic fashion is, I think, intentional: Onadaatje expects for the reader to capture thereby the splintered yet essentially whole quality of the country and its inhabitants. As he treats Sri Lanka and its population, so too does he treat his central characters.Anil is a young female forensic anthropologist working for an international agency to investigate human rights abuses in her girlhood homeland. She has gone to the former Ceylon at the putative invitation of the Sri Lankan government. Her assigned contact in Colombo, Sarath, is a middle aged-archeologist and widower devoted to his country¿s history. Anil immediately is forced to question the degree to which she can trust him. He is, after all, a government representative (albeit one whose job is academic in nature rather than political). He seems, and she hopes he actually is, fairly remote from any sins the government may have committed. The third major character is Sarath¿s much younger brother, Gamini, who works compulsively as an emergency physician in Colombo¿s busiest trauma hospital, trying to mend the broken patients brought to his doorstep by the pervasive violence of the civil unrest and bombings. The brothers are not close and, seemingly unknown to Sarath, Gamini had been in love with Sarath¿s wife prior to her suicide.Anil left Sri Lanka when she came of university age to study in England and the United States. The two men remained in Sri Lanka and were educated there. Shortly after her arrival, Sarath shows her the ancient bones he has recovered from a midden at his current archeological research site. She notes that one bone fragment does not seem to be prehistoric at all and questions him. He carefully deliberates on her finding and somewhat reluctantly arranges for them to go to the site. There they find the skeleton of ¿Sailor¿ who obviously died not centuries ago, but at the most a decade ago --or even later. Sailor¿s remains indicate that he is one of the human rights abuse cases she has come to investigate. Further, because the archeological site is guarded and only government-approved persons are admitted, it looks likely that this murder should be attributed to the central government.Sarath and Anil set out to identify the remains and document his murder. The search takes them throughout a large part of Sri Lanka, introducing two or three other important figures into the story as well as letting you experience the diversity that is Ceylon At one point, while back in Colombo, Anil dines with Sarath and his brother, Gamini, and only later does she realize that what she took at the time to be a lively conversation between herself and first one man and then the other was in fact the attempt of the two men to communicate with each another. Her realization is fitting because you find that the novel is perhaps just as much about the two brothers as it is about the title character, Anil. And who finally, in this haunted novel so abundant with other shades and phantoms, is Anil¿s ghost? Her former homeland? ¿Sailor?¿ Her married lover? Or someone or something else?
sammimag on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Interesting book. I'd like to understand a little bit more about he political stuff in the book but haven't found much. The story was for me disjointed but it was likely the style.
wendywh on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A confusing novel. The two stories, one in background and one in main theme, seems disconnected.
mbergman on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A confusing story, at least in its oral version, by Jessica's favorite author, about a native Sri Lankan woman, educated in England & the US, who returns to Sri Lanka as a forensic anthropologist working for an international human rights organization to investigate human rights abuses. The personal & political didn't seem well integrated here.
drivingsideways on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
*shrug *A nice story, and Ondjaate's usual style-yet something is missing.