Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje
"Anil's Ghost" by Michael Ondaatje is a novel that delves deeply into the complexities of war, loss, identity, and memory. Set in Sri Lanka during the country's civil war, the story follows Anil Tissera, a forensic anthropologist, who returns to her homeland after years of studying and working abroad.
The novel begins with Anil's arrival in Sri Lanka, where she joins forces with Sarath Diyasena, an archaeologist, and Palipana, a government official, to investigate the discovery of a skeleton in an ancient burial site. The skeleton is believed to be a victim of the civil war, and as Anil and her team delve deeper into the investigation, they discover that the victim was a young woman who was brutally murdered.
Anil becomes obsessed with identifying the victim and finding her killer, which leads her on a dangerous journey through the war-torn country. Along the way, she grapples with her own sense of identity and belonging, having spent most of her life outside of Sri Lanka. Her experiences shed light on the struggles of those who have been displaced or forced to flee their homes due to war, and the toll it takes on their sense of self and connection to their culture.
Throughout the novel, Ondaatje paints a vivid picture of the devastating effects of war on Sri Lanka's people and culture. He captures the brutality of the conflict and the ways in which it tears apart communities and families. The novel also explores the themes of memory and history, as Anil and her team uncover the truth about the victim's identity and the circumstances of her death. Through their investigation, they also uncover the history of Sri Lanka's civil war and the atrocities committed during the conflict.
The novel is divided into several parts, each of which focuses on a different aspect of the investigation. In the first part, Anil arrives in Sri Lanka and begins her work with Sarath and Palipana. In the second part, they discover the skeleton and begin to investigate the victim's identity. In the third part, Anil travels to the north of the country to gather more information about the victim and her family. In the fourth part, she uncovers the truth about the victim's death and the role of the government in the conflict.
One of the key strengths of "Anil's Ghost" is the richness and complexity of its characters. Anil is a deeply flawed protagonist, struggling with her own demons and insecurities, but she is also fiercely intelligent and determined. Sarath and Palipana are equally complex, with their own motivations and histories that are revealed over the course of the novel. Ondaatje masterfully weaves their stories together, creating a tapestry of experiences that gives depth and nuance to the narrative.
The climax of the novel is a tense and emotional scene in which Anil and her team confront the government officials responsible for the victim's death. This scene is a powerful testament to the courage and resilience of those who seek justice in the face of immense obstacles. It also highlights the importance of bearing witness to the atrocities committed during war and holding those responsible accountable for their actions.
In conclusion, "Anil's Ghost" is a masterful work of literature that explores the complexities of war and its aftermath. Ondaatje's beautiful prose, complex characters, and thought-provoking themes make this novel a must-read for anyone interested in the human experience. It is a powerful reminder of the importance of empathy, compassion, and justice in a world torn apart by conflict.