Anil Tissera, a forensic anthropologist, has returned to Sri Lanka, a land steeped in culture and tradition, to investigate organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. This is a story of love, family, and identity, set in a country torn apart and ravaged by civil war.
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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 WilberFrom the Publisher:
"Michael Ondaatje's novels swing on fiction's rope--they launch into a flight of myth, and are caught up once more in agile narrative hands. Like trapeze artists, they fly from one arm-straining gravity to another, across a shocking gap of weightlessness . . . Nowhere has Ondaatje written more beautifully . . . It is his extraordinary achievement to use magic in order to make the blood of his own country real."
-- Richard Eder, New York Times Book Review
"You'll have to remind yourself to keep breathing as you read this book . . . Ondaatje is a master at portraying unconsummated desire--for love, truth, or peace."
-- Christian Science Monitor
"Another potential blockbuster. Anil's Ghost is an incandescent murder mystery wrapped in the enigmatic political cloak of moral transgressions . . . It is virtually flawless, with impeccable regional details, startlingly original characters and a compelling literary plot that borders on the thriller. Ondaatje's stunning achievement is to produce an idelible novel of dangerous beauty."
-- USA Today
"Ondaatje's willingness to look human suffering in the face is one of his compelling virtues, and gives his dreamlike montages their stern depth."
-- John Updike, The New Yorker
"Ondaatje's peripatetic storytelling--the constant shifts from one character or bit of business to another and his poetic sensibilities that tease out just the right works to memorialize his characters--proves perfect for this story . . . Ondaatje's plea in this work, circuitous and beautifully told, is simple--a prerequisite of life is proof of existence."
-- Booklist (starred review)
"Powerful and resonant... The narrative, whose revelations have been building with a quiet ferocity, assumes the tension of a thriller, its chilling insights augmented by the visceral emotional effects that masterful literature can provide. More effective than a documentary, Ondaatje's novel satisfies one of the most exalted purposes of fiction: to illuminate the human condition through pity and terror. It may well be the capstone of his career.... Masterful."
-- Publishers Weekly (starred review)
"A truly wondrous book. The layers of human history, the depth of the human body, the heartache of love and fratricide have rarely been conveyed with such dignity and translucence. I was enthralled as I have not been since The English Patient."
-- Ariel Dorfman
"Elegant prose and deft handling of character bring this tale of political and personal unrest to a stirring resolution."
-- Vanity Fair
"An exquisitely imagined journey through the hellish consequences of impassioned intentions...Anil's stubborn pursuit of this goal evolves as a sort of forensic thriller...The uncanny power of Anil's Ghost stems largely from Ondaatje's refusal to frame his tale as a struggle of good and evil... Condemnation seems too simple a response to the complex horrors he portrays."
-- TIME Magazine
"Utterly riveting." -- Glamour
Absolutely magical...The narrative races along, a hardheaded, softhearted thriller...The language throughout is tremendously lyrical, but it never chokes the story with too much perfume...It displays the fine particularity of genuine literature."
"Michael Ondaatje breaks the rules. He forces the novel to do things it isn't supposed to do and he gets away with it. His fiction plays an elusive and dazzling game of tag with a dreamlike other reality . . . Anil's Ghost is an impressive achievement. Like all of his books, it is a work of high moral and aesthetic seriousness, suffused with a deep affection for and understanding of human beings and compassion for their lot."
"It sucks you in like a high-class thriller yet has an imagistic richness lusher than any film...His sensuous prose transports us to a land ravaged by death and pulsing with beauty; you can almost hear the whirring cicadas...A meditation on how human beings learn to deal with the weight of the past, the pain of the present, and the yearning for spiritual release. Life-embracing and wise."
"Ondaatje's most mature and engrossing novel...A searing, compassionate novel of extraordinary beauty."
-- Daily News
"Anil's Ghost has to be the best thing he has ever done.... It unfolds as a detective tale...The details of forensic analysis is an ongoing, fascinating fabric of the book...Ondaatje produces a timelessness that is sustainingly moving...But what is most compelling is the power of language.... Ondaatje is a magnificent writer. Precision of expression, concision of thought, cleanness, clarity of detail permeate every page. He is a storyteller, and his stories work marvelously, but he is also a thinker, an explorer, a seeker of truth...The reader is drawn deeply to the importance and dignity of the physician's task, of healing but more than that of saving."
-- Baltimore Sun
"Ondaatje is a choreographer of images, finding within the darkening plain of history a forest of infinite possibility...What gives Ondaatje's writing its particular weight and magic is the labyrinthine consciousness at its center...It offers imagery of terrible beauty...A novel of exquisite refractions and angles: gorgeous but circumspect, trying to capture the essential truth by always looking first to its reflection."
-- Boston Globe
"There is much to astonish, to disturb and to admire...Ondaatje's ability to create deeply moving fictions through indirection is a rare triumph: a poet in the skin of a novelist, he makes the mysteries of silence speak with the force of his words."
-- The Guardian, London
"Ondaatje remains a first-class writer. The prose is a joy . . . sinuous, intelligent, graceful."
-- The Sunday Telegraph, London
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Book Description Picador, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. Bookseller Inventory # DADAX0330480774
Book Description Picador, 2000. Paperback. Book Condition: New. book. Bookseller Inventory # 0330480774