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[86] Anil’s Ghost – Michael Ondaajte

anil.jpgFirst rainy July 18 ever in San Francisco’s history so the news said. The cafe was unusually quiet, other than the muffled tic-tac sound of raining hitting on the corrugated roof. Flood-gate of my mind opened and out quickly gushed my thoughts on this latest read which, despite its glim outlook, complies to the armchair traveler reading challenge and what I talked about yesterday. Sri Lanka.

This novel is set during a time of political turmoil and historical significance between mid 1980s and early 1990s, when Sri Lanka was steeped in crisis that involved the government, the anti-government insurgents, and separatist gurrillas. Into this country of ravages where the only evidence of Western influence is the state-of-the-art weapons arrives Anil Tissera, a medical anthropologist who returns to her motherland to investigate source of organized murder campaign on behalf of a human rights group.

No sooner has she arrived is she engulfed by an air of ubiquitous fear. Not only ever family she encounters loses someone to the unofficial war or has a member missing, these families also have no clue of who their enemy might be. That the president, who is later killed in a suicide bombing on National Heroes Day, claims no knowledge of such a campaign on the island makes Anil realize she is moving with one arm of the language among uncertain laws, shady cover-up, for this climate of uncertainty and menacing prospect stamp down public sorrow in a fearful nation.

Matter turns sticky when she uncovers skeletons so fresh that dried ligaments still hold together the bones. That these remains have been tampered with and commingled with prehistoric artifacts in cordoned-off sites is a tell-tale sign of a diversionary tactic. The result, as truth slowly comes trickling out, is a spooky fulfillment of Orwellian presage. Totalitarian dictatorship contrives to cover up the truth about massive killing even at the expense of innocent people. At the height of this annihilation, not only are the insurgent rebels wiped out, but along with them their supporters and sympathizers.

This novel so strong allures to 1984 in the sense that hidden histories, however intentionally hidden or destroyed, would find their way to light. What makes the killings so poignant is the blood tie between families and their lost ones. Ondaatje has woven into his narrative subtle love affairs, brotherly ties, childhood memories and undying hope that not only defy the lies but also bring permanence to the short lives that are lost.

4 Responses

  1. Ok, I admit I had never even once thought about this book mainly because I didn’t like The English Patient at all. Sounds terrible doesn’t it? Anyway I really liked your review and I may not be rushing out to get this one but I’ll definitely consider it.

  2. I felt the same way when I saw this book at the bookstore–I was somewhat turned off by English Patient. Then a friend of mine told me about this and a blogger (I forgot who) was reading it, so I decided to give it a try. 🙂

  3. The english patient inspired poetry in my creative moments. Anils ghost is my next read.
    Ondaatje is the poet of 20th centurey for me.

  4. […] Challenges 1. Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaajte (Sri Lanka) 2. Snow, Orhan Pamuk (Turkey) 3. Burmese Days, George Orwell (Burma) 4. Sixpence House, […]

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