Michael Ondaatje: Anil’s Ghost


The latest addition to my website is Michael Ondaatje‘s Anil’s Ghost. This is another superb novel by Ondaatje on war, truth and perspective, this time focussing on the conflict in Sri Lanka, the country of his birth. It tells the story of Anil Tessera, a forensic pathologist and Sri Lankan by birth but who has spent much of her adult life in the West. She is now working for a United Nations human rights investigation, looking into political murders in Sri Lanka. She and her colleague, Sarath Diyasena, a local archeologist, find evidence of a body concealed in an ancient site. However, their investigation is hindered by Anil’s suspicion of Sarath’s connections, trying to identify the body and, inevitably, the fact that they are getting too near to people in power. We also meet Sarath’s brother, a doctor who deals with accidents and emergencies, who devotes his life to helping those that have been injured, while trying to keep away from politics, which is naturally not always easy. We also meet Ananda, a painter of Buddhas, who has been traumatised by the disappearance of his wife and who helps them give a face to the dead man. Ondaatje does not hold back on the horrors of war but, as with The English Patient, there is a lot more to this book.

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