5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece
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...
Published 14 months ago by Lorina Stephens
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, yet detached.
Michael Ondaatje is a special author. He gives us the opportunity to explore ideas and places that few modern authors are capable of. Anil's Ghost is a collage of images reflecting pain, joy and quite often dispair and hopelessness. However, this is not a novel for every reader.
Ondaatje presents the reader with an unlikely collection of characters each of...
Published 15 months ago by J Roche
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5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece,
This review is from: Anil's Ghost (Paperback)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.
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful, yet detached.,
This review is from: Anil's Ghost (Paperback)Michael Ondaatje is a special author. He gives us the opportunity to explore ideas and places that few modern authors are capable of. Anil's Ghost is a collage of images reflecting pain, joy and quite often dispair and hopelessness. However, this is not a novel for every reader.
Ondaatje presents the reader with an unlikely collection of characters each of Sri Lankan origin and carrying their own unique baggage and pain. The story is set against the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war and incorporates a romanticised picture of ancient Sri Lankan history. It is history that Ondaatje has used to tie this entire story together. Each character's past is revealed to illustrate how they became who they are at the point the story takes place.
This is purely a character based novel. Ondaatje makes no effort to explain or justify the war. It is only presented as the setting. We only see it in so much as it effects the main characters directly. As I read this novel I was capitivated by it's optimistic tone regardless of the misery that impacted and surrounded these people. Each of them maintained a beauty of character.
That said, I felt left out as the reader. Much of this novel was like looking at a painting. Beautiful and moving but static and easy to walk away from. I was never drawn into any of the characters and at no point did I really empathize with any of them either. It's for this reason that I don't think this book is for everyone.
If what I've said has made you curious by all means read Anil's Ghost. But don't grab it on a whim, you're likely to be disappointed.
4.0 out of 5 stars Specters and Secrets,
4.0 out of 5 stars The real Sri Lanka,
This review is from: Anil's Ghost (Hardcover)This book is Michael Ondaatje's portrayal of passion for his native Sri Lanka. It is a brilliant maze of ethnic war, archaeology, forensic science, Buddhist art and culture, all woven into the story of Anil Tissera. A young forensic pathologist who shares her cultural and filial ties with Sri Lanka but not its' political and social affirmations. Ondaatje cleverly spins the web of a war that devours its people, and drives Anil into a deep dark pit of ethno-political uncertainty.
Anil's only aim is to use her forensic skills to prove a silent killing. While she digs for the truth, she discovers her cultural and nationalistic roots. Sarath Diyasena the archaeologist, seeking the same truth through the eyes of the historical past and his brother Gamini, the doctor, the voice of reality, who dissolves history and science for a more gory blood-stained truth. The thread that links them is the passion for their profession. This driving passion is their survival in an unworkable system.
In his poetic genius, Ondaatje describes modern day Sri Lanka as it is. A must read.
4.0 out of 5 stars An eye-opening novel,
This review is from: Anil's Ghost (Hardcover)Michael Ondaatje, author of The English Patient, takes us to Sri Lanka in his work, Anil's Ghost, where his languid, luscious prose allows us to feel the horrors of civil war. Anil Tissera, a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights organization, returns to her island homeland to help locate the source of terrorism and mass murders. Anil finds her life entwining with the lives of two brothers. Gamini, sickly with diphtheria as a child, who becomes a medical doctor and Sarath, the elder sibling, who steers away from his father's law firm, and learns archaelology. The brothers seem to symbolize a country caught up in strife.
Sarath studies under the famous archaeologist, Palipana, whose work is discredited when no evidence can be found of the ancient texts he used in his own publications. The narrator suggests that "...perhaps for him [Palipana], it was not a false step but the step to another reality, the last stage of a long, truthful dance" (p. 81). "In the last few years he had found the hidden histories, intentionally lost, that altered the perspective and knowledge of earlier times. It was how one hid or wrote the truth when it was necessary to lie" (p. 105). Palipana's work becomes a metaphor for the chaos and confusion of Sri Lanka's intense and protracted internal struggle.
An eye-opening novel.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful in parts, dissonant as whole,
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ondaatje Challenging Hollywod: Try This!,
1 of 2 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Beautiful imagery, but a meandering mess,
The book is set in modern Sri Lanka, a country ripped apart by civil war, in which families endlessly seek word of their missing fathers, sons or brothers who have mysteriously disappeared amidst the chaotic violence. Protagonist Anil Tessera is an anthropologist and a native Sri Lankan, U.S. educated, who returns home as part of a human rights organization trying to identify the remains of victims and chronicle human rights violations.
One body in particular fascinates Anil and her partner Sarath, a skeleton they nickname "Sailor" who was apparently tortured and killed about 4 years ago, and then reburied in an area in which only the government might have had access. Although the government's role in the killings seems obvious to the reader, apparently Anil and Sarath believe that Sailor might provide important proof in the government's participation in the bloodshed. Therefore, the search for Sailor's true identity passes for mystery in this novel, amidst Ondaatje's trademark murky flashbacks, evocative settings and short glimpses of very poetic prose. However this great mystery is not terribly satisfying when ultimately solved, since Ondaatje doesn't bother letting readers know exactly how our protagonists identified Sailor.
There are memorable scenes to be sure, such as flashbacks of Anil's days in the U.S. watching old movies with her friend and trying to rationalize the bulletwounds received by characters in western movies, or present-day scenes of Anil and Sarath bathing in remote Sri Lanka lakes and stumbling across tortured drivers on the roadway. The problem is the scenes don't go anywhere - the author spends so much time drifting back into the pasts of slight characters, the reader (or in my case listener) loses interest and frequently forgets exactly who is being discussed. (ie are we discussing the past of Sarath's brother Gamini, a doctor kidnapped from his family and forced to care for rebels a la Dr. Zhivago, or is this chapter still about Sarath's mentor Palipana - and who cares?).
If you loved the novel The English Patient, and didn't mind frequent passages where the author uses the male pronoun and you have no idea to whom he is referring, than this may be the novel for you. To make matters worse here, narrator Alan Cumming used virtually the same voice for every character in the novel, male and female, which often added to my confusion. Maybe the novel works better in a few longer sittings, as opposed to frequent half hour intervals which comprise my commute, but I ultimately found Anil's Ghost an occasionally mesmerizing, but ultimately aimless tale.
3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Artist Writes History,
This review is from: Anil's Ghost (Paperback)Michael Ondaatje's latest novel, Anil's Ghost, a post-modern investigative fiction about the land of Sri Lanka, is a showcase of the author's graceful yet powerful writing. Popularly known as the Pearl of the Indian Ocean, Sri Lanka is a nation that has been torn by a bloody civil war between the Sinhalese-dominated government and Tamil separatists. There is no room for peace. The estimated 20-year toll is 17,000 dead.
Anil, like Ondaatje, born a Sinhalese in Sri Lanka, represents the West's scientific but ultimately ignorant ways. The distanced and emotionally detached narrative voice thus makes sense, because the people of the West, having been raised up in a culture built on peace and stability can never fully understand the East, which has evolved deviously through endless trauma. The dominant male voice of the narrator perfectly speaks forth the author's repressed emotions with subtle ambiguity and leaves the reader feeling one has nothing to cry for and everything to cry about - perhaps this is how we are supposed to feel when death touches a part of our life, every day.
Even the most experienced readers can feel intimidated by the heterotopic plot if one does not read like an archaeologist; one must dig through the fragmented and layered subtexts to unearth a truth that is stagnant, rotten and good-for-nothing. It is only natural, then, that the novel ends not with truth, but with beauty. High above the fields, Ananda chisels and paints the eyes of the statuesque Buddha; he is able to see "all the fibres of natural history around him." "He could witness the smallest approach of a bird, every flick of its wind, or a hundred-mile storm coming down off the mountains near Gonagola and skirting to the plains. He could feel each current of wind, every lattice-like green shadow created by cloud." Nothing is more harmonious and elegant than the artistic resolution of violent human history through poetry. Anil's Ghost is an affair with the English language, commanded effortlessly by a master writer.
2 of 3 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars My two cents...,
Maybe Michael Ondaatje's writing style just isn't for me. I don't know. But I do know that I did not enjoy this book and would not recommend it to anyone. I will not be reading any more Ondaatje books either. There are just too many others out there that are worth reading.
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Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje (Paperback - April 17 2001)
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