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Anil's Ghost.

ONDAATJE, Michael.

12,997 ratings by Goodreads
ISBN 10: 0330480774 / ISBN 13: 9780330480772
Published by NY: Knopf,, 2000
Soft cover
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About this Item

299 pp. Very near fine in printed wrappers (two small spots on spine). His fourth novel. Bookseller Inventory # 6722

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Anil's Ghost.

Publisher: NY: Knopf,

Publication Date: 2000

Binding: Soft cover

Edition: Uncorrected proof.

About this title

Synopsis:

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 the civil war. Into this maelstrom steps Anil Tissera, a young woman born in Sri Lanka, educated in England and America who returns to Sri Lanka as a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human-rights group to investigate the organized murder campaigns 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. `This is why I read, this is why literature matters, this, in short, is IT! . . . By the closing pages Anil's Ghost has come as close to a holy book as a novel should' Independent `This work of "fiction" will endure as a history of these times showing us how we may face even the most extreme actions of our civilization through wise, compassionate re-creation' Sunday Times, Sri Lanka `It is Ondaatje's extraordinary achievement to use magic in order to make the blood of his own country real . . . Nowhere has he written more beautifully' New York Times Book Review `A truly wondrous book . . . I was enthralled as I have not been since The English Patient' Ariel Dorfman, author of Death and the Maiden

Review:

In his Booker Prize-winning third novel, The English Patient, Michael Ondaatje explored the nature of love and betrayal in wartime. His fourth, Anil's Ghost, is also set during a war, but unlike in World War II, the enemy is difficult to identify in the bloody sectarian upheaval that ripped Sri Lanka apart in the 1980s and '90s. The protagonist, Anil Tissera, a native Sri Lankan, left her homeland at 18 and returns to it 15 years later only as part of an international human rights fact-finding mission. In the intervening years she has become a forensic anthropologist--a career that has landed her in the killing fields of Central America, digging up the victims of Guatemala's dirty war. Now she's come to Sri Lanka on a similar quest. But as she soon learns, there are fundamental differences between her previous assignment and this one:

The bodies turn up weekly now. The height of the terror was 'eighty-eight and 'eighty-nine, but of course it was going on long before that. Every side was killing and hiding the evidence. Every side. This is an unofficial war, no one wants to alienate the foreign powers. So it's secret gangs and squads. Not like Central America. The government was not the only one doing the killing.
In such a situation, it's difficult to know who to trust. Anil's colleague is one Sarath Diyasena, a Sri Lankan archaeologist whose political affiliations, if any, are murky. Together they uncover evidence of a government-sponsored murder in the shape of a skeleton they nickname Sailor. But as Anil begins her investigation into the events surrounding Sailor's death, she finds herself caught in a web of politics, paranoia, and tragedy.

Like its predecessor, the novel explores that territory where the personal and the political intersect in the fulcrum of war. Its style, though, is more straightforward, less densely poetical. While many of Ondaatje's literary trademarks are present--frequent shifts in time, almost hallucinatory imagery, the gradual interweaving of characters' pasts with the present--the prose here is more accessible. This is not to say that the author has forgotten his poetic roots; subtle, evocative images abound. Consider, for example, this description of Anil at the end of the day, standing in a pool of water, "her toes among the white petals, her arms folded as she undressed the day, removing layers of events and incidents so they would no longer be within her." In Anil's Ghost Michael Ondaatje has crafted both a brutal examination of internecine warfare and an enduring meditation on identity, loyalty, and the unbreakable hold the past exerts over the present. --Alix Wilber

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