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Anil's Ghost

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  16,024 ratings  ·  1,317 reviews
An alternate cover edition of this ISBN can be found here.

With his first novel since the internationally acclaimed The English Patient, Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje gives us a work displaying all the richness of imagery and language and the piercing emotional truth that we have come to know as the hallmarks of his writing.

Anil’s Ghost transports us to Sri L
Paperback, 311 pages
Published April 24th 2001 by Vintage (first published March 30th 2000)
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Inger-Johanne I found the answer to this question myself, it is explained in the text a little way into the book. It is intended to serve as an elaboration on the p…moreI found the answer to this question myself, it is explained in the text a little way into the book. It is intended to serve as an elaboration on the protagonist's personality. I didn't find the explanation particularly credible or satisfactory, though.(less)

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Average rating 3.57  · 
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I read some people in Goodreads saying that this book is composed of fragments. I would rather say it is composed of silences between them. So many things are untold in “Anil’s Ghost”, but can be perceived and felt so clearly. To me this eloquent mosaic of silences was as important, as beautiful and poetic as Ondaatje’s words in this fragmented story. And what can better transmit the fear of the people caught amidst the Sri Lanka civil war than silence?

Ondaatje loosely tells us about the situati
Will Byrnes
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
In a fearful nation, public sorrow was stamped down by the climate of uncertainty. If a father protested a son’s death, it was feared another family member would be killed. If people you knew disappeared, there was a chance they might stay alive if you did not cause trouble. This was a scarring psychosis in the country. Death, loss, was ‘unfinished,’ so you could not walk through it. There had been years of night visitations, kidnappings or murders in broad daylight. The only chance was that
May 23, 2008 rated it really liked it
Great writer, impressive book.
Violet wells
Aug 30, 2018 rated it liked it
Shelves: 21st-century
My least favourite Ondaatje book. It all felt a bit flat to me. So much so that I'm struggling to think of anything interesting to say about it. Perhaps the main problem is the central character Anil who never came alive for me. She's something of a cliché, the career woman floundering in an affair with a married man. There's not much psychology in his creation of her. I never quite found her plausible, likeable or even interesting. Odd, because we're told too much about her rather than not enou ...more
May 20, 2016 rated it it was amazing
It’s the civil war in Sri Lanka. Anil, the novel’s heroine, is a forensic anthropologist and part of a team investigating possible war crimes. She is paired for the investigation with a government-selected archaeologist named Sarath, an enigmatic man 16 years her senior. Together Anil and Sarath find four skeletons whom they nickname Tinker, Tailor, Soldier and Sailor, the last a source of obsessive fascination. The task is to give Sailor back his identity in order to incriminate the government ...more
Jul 10, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: mttbr-2012, canada
Against the obscenity of large numbers

When a writer, dauntless and unflinching, turns his piercing gaze on mass murder, how does he drag it back into the realm of the human? In 2666 Bolano gave to each and every one of the women murdered in Santa Teresa (Ciudad Juarez), a name, or the clothes they were wearing, or where they were murdered, or, at the very least, how they were found and what happened to the corpse afterwards. He turns each one into an individual, even in the relentless catalo
Jun 13, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Expats, lovers, crusaders
I tried to read this once before, but I couldn't get much past page 80. This time, I couldn't put it down, which just reinforces my belief that there's a right time and a wrong time to read each book. This time, I'd been prepared by The Ministry of Special Cases and "The Caretaker," a story in Anthony Doerr's The Shell Collector. I wonder, now, about my recent attraction to refugee fiction or desaparecido fiction. What, exactly, am I looking for? What have I lost, or left behind?

Ondaatje's chara
Algernon (Darth Anyan)
Nov 07, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2019
When I’ve been digging and I’m tired and don’t want to do any more, I think how it could be me in the grave I’m working on. I wouldn’t want someone to stop digging for me ...

Anil Tissera is a forensic anthropologist, educated in England and America, but born in Sri Lanka, an expatriate not unlike the author himself. She comes back to the country of her birth, sent by a human rights organization to investigate allegation of crimes against humanity. Anil firmly believes that the truth shall set
Lucy Banks
Jan 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Beautiful, restrained... but at times, completely meandering!

I've already read The English Patient, so wasn't surprised when I dived into Ondaatje's world again, which feels very dreamy and evocative. It was a pleasure to read, but at times, a little frustrating... I sometimes had to go back and remind myself which character we were focusing on!

The story is centred round Anil, a champion swimmer turned forensic expert, who has returned to Sri Lanka to investigate a mysterious skeleton, buried in
Connie G
"One village can speak for many villages. One victim can speak for many victims."

Anil Tissera, a forensic pathologist, returned to her native Sri Lanka after studying abroad. She is sponsored by a human rights group to investigate the mysterious deaths and disappearances during the civil war. The people were living in constant danger with atrocities committed by all three groups fighting in the 1980s war--the government, the separatists, and the insurgents.

Anil is paired with archaeologist Sarat
May 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I bought this book with the apprehension that I may never end up reading it. And ppl on Goodreads had described it as dense with the language being difficult and all that. Also, my experience with the author's The English Patient wasn't a happy one. Anyway, to cut the long story short I somehow got around to it. It was a really rewarding experience. It is hard to tell the story. In that way, it is structured more like connecting short stories. It is about a forensic pathologist, a woman, who com ...more
Jul 01, 2008 rated it it was ok
Recommends it for: people interested in Sri Lanka's dark underbelly
Meh. Listened to this on tape. This contributed to the fragmented feeling of the book, but only a little. I didn't know why certain characters were being fleshed out when they were, or how they were related to the story at all sometimes. Maybe if I'd known more about Sri Lankan politics it would have been more clear. There was some suspense, but it never climaxed. Some of the writing was beautiful and vivid, but not enough to keep my attention if I'd been reading this myself.

Read The English Pat
aayushi girdhar
Aug 20, 2020 rated it liked it
Shelves: sri-lanka
'anil's ghost' - a fictionalized story about the atrocities of the civil war that sri lanka went through, where ondaatje paints the brutality of sufferings using his picturesque words, a part of history that was lost even before it was ever found. i struggled with the writing, it was fragmented, characters too distant, the story - chaotic, dislocated. but isn't this what civil war does? this book was written in 2000 while sri lanka was still in the midst of the civil war, an attempt to seek refu ...more
Nov 03, 2017 rated it really liked it
I will only add to the informative reviews of others that to me, sometimes to its advantage and sometimes to its detriment, this novel walks a razor's edge between fiction and sociology.

One strength of the novel, in addition to its many moments of beautiful writing, is the way it weaves archeology, forensic anthropology, and cultural anthropology into a narrative of complementary epistemologies while at the same time unfurling a mystery through the trajectories of its diverse cast of characters
Oct 29, 2008 rated it really liked it
Anil Tessira, a 33-year-old native Sri Lankan who left her country 15 years before, is a forensic pathologist sent by the U.N. human rights commission to investigate reports of mass murders on the island. Atrocities are being committed by three groups: the government, anti-government insurgents, and separatist guerrillas. Working secretly, these warring forces are decimating a population paralyzed by pervasive fear. Taciturn archeologist Sarath Diyasena is assigned by the government to be Anil's ...more
Oct 13, 2011 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library
I really wanted to like this book. At dinner parties I always try to blend with the wallpaper when somebody starts raving about how the English Patient was the greatest film of all time. I always cringe when I have to admit I thought it was complete rubbish. I'm obviously a uncultured philistine.

This book was going to be my redemption, my step up into the intellectual elite. I wanted to be able to tell all my ever-so-clever friends that while The English Patient didn't rock my world, Anil's Ghos
Sharon Dodge
Jun 15, 2011 rated it liked it
Anil's Ghost, the story of a forensic anthropologist investigating the bones of a war victim in Sri Lanka, is a painful, beautiful book. It is also very honest: the science does not magically resolve itself, but must be worked at; the war is hideous; the cultural knowledge is first-hand; and the heroics are small, if they exist at all, and usually brutally punished.

It is as frequently frustrating, unfortunately, as it is beautiful. Maybe it's just my simple, Hemingway-esque soul, but at times I
robin friedman
Apr 08, 2020 rated it really liked it
Anil's Ghost

For several years, I have had the opportunity to study Theravada Buddhism at a Sri Lankan Buddhist Temple in Washington, D.C. Although it was not the focus of my interest, I had from the outset of my study of Buddhism been aware of the unfortunate civil war that raged in Sri Lanka for many years. I welcomed the opportunity to learn more about the conflict by reading Michael Ondaatje's novel "Anil's Ghost" (2000).

Ondaatje's novel is set in Sri Lanka in the late 1980s -- early 1990's i
Oct 20, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
ETA: Warning - you learn very few specifics about the civil war. I was up last night thinking about this and considering if I should remove a star. No, I am not removing one. Ondaatje has a special way of writing, and I like it very much. In the beginning of the book there is a statement that says the war continues but in another way! So I think, what way? Tell me! (He never does.) That irritated me then, just as so much else did in the beginning. I didn't get what I expected but what I got was ...more
This is my first Michael Ondaatje book. Believe it or not, I have not read The English Patient.

Ondaatje is known for his lyrical prose. This book certainly meets that criterion. Unfortunately, it was hard to follow the plot.

I do know this. The heroine Anil Tissera is from Sri Lanka. She has been gone for fifteen years. She studied to become a forensic archeologist. She has been called back to research skeletons thought to be murders by the government during the Civil War.

I read this book due to
May 04, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: sri-lankan, canadian
There are pietas of every kind.

And there are many bodies to be held in this Sri Lankan tone poem. The holders, to say the least, are complicated. As are the geopolitics. No happy endings. And no answers.

I sat in a parking spot in Clarion, PA, on a warming May day, and read the last 100 pages in lieu of lunch. This was moving, and incomplete, and poetic, and while I knew this was more a prose poem than a novel, I loved the voice that could say,

There are pietas of every kind.

Hold me.

Postlude: I l
Jul 25, 2020 rated it it was amazing
I took a little while to compose my thoughts after I read the final hundred early this morning. There is a burning need created by the writer to find out the identity of Sailor ... and what happens to the central characters when people find out that they know. This is told in richly layered fragments, hopping back and forwards through life stories in the beauty of the lush country amongst the horrible cruelty of and depravity of the Sri Lankan war that we know little of. We hear the plight of re ...more
Samidha; समिधा
3 Stars.
It started out as a complicated and fragmented plot structure. For the first hundred pages or so, it kept switching between past and present, conversations and memories, all within the same chapter. It was hard to keep up.
It gets better, post 150 pages. It picks up pace, however there are very few civil war, LTTE- Sinhalese references. The evidence is there, stories about the popular politicians are very easily identified as well, but Gamini is the only one through whom you get an insigh
Jennifer (aka EM)
Exquisitely written, as Ondaatje (always?) is - that overused word 'lyrical' applies in spades here - and more, the lyricism is connected to a set of intriguing, complex, deeply hurt and deeply feeling characters. Others comment on the fragmented nature of the narrative; for me, I was (due to life circumstances) only able to read/listen to this in snatches, and I think that actually minimized any disruption I might have felt had I been consuming this prose in longer stretches.

But wait - that is
Ron Charles
Dec 16, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Writing a classic war novel is never easy, of course, but consider the audience that awaited Stephen Crane's "Red Badge of Courage" in 1895. Every reader in America was still living in the shadow of the Civil War.

Similarly, when Erich Maria Remarque released "All Quiet on the Western Front" in 1929, there was a whole planet waiting to make sense of World War I.

Unfortunately, the West is not waiting for a novel about the civil war in Sri Lanka. But Michael Ondaatje is about to put this tragedy on
Also reviewed on my Youtube channel.

This is a...complex book. It's the story of Anil, a forensic anthropologist who works with the UN and returns to Sri Lanka for the first time in fifteen years on an investigation. But while it's about Anil and the skeleton of a civil war victim that she unearths, it's more about Sri Lanka itself. It's not just Anil's story, but the story of those who help her - an archaeologist, Sarath; his doctor brother, Gamini; the statue carver, Ananda. It's the story of
Evie Braithwaite
Set text for university

Forensic-specialist Anil returns to Sri Lanka, her homeland, to examine archaeological remains and discovers the bones of a victim found in a government-protected area. With the help of her investigation partner Sarath, Anil is determined to establish the corpse as a victim of government forces.

Having been away for 15 years living in Europe and North America, Anil has returned to a country now ravaged by civil war, murderous conflict, mass disappearances of innocent pe
Jan 22, 2015 rated it liked it
If I could give Anil's Ghost 3.5 stars, I would.
On the plus side, much of the writing is stunning and Ondaatje creates images that will stay with me forever. One of the novel's central themes is the idea of stone, and everything it can symbolize. All the different ways of thinking about rock are woven brilliantly into the story and I came away feeling immersed in highly complex, satisfying metaphors. The book is also about the relationship we have with our pasts and the suffering caused by war.
May 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: 2014
When I look at Michael Ondaatje's author picture I think, well, this is going to be a surly read. How wrong could I get?

Anil's Ghost is a beautifully rendered, elegantly written story of love, loss, conscience, and discovery. It takes place in Sri Lanka in the later years of the horrible, and extended civil war, and focuses on the lives and work of the title character, a forensic anthropologist, and Sarath, her government connected archeologist partner. Many other characters come into focus, and
Feb 10, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was very, very slow. I had a hard time getting through it but something kept me reading. It was rather hard to read in that it was written in fragments and pieces, not so linear, lots of character backstory. It felt kind of anti-climatic, but it was more of a character-driven, literary novel.

I enjoyed learning about Sri Lanka and the civil war that occurred during the 1980's and 1990's. I had no knowledge of this prior to reading the book. It's very sad to learn that such horrible thin
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He was born to a Burgher family of Dutch-Tamil-Sinhalese-Portuguese origin. He moved to England with his mother in 1954. After relocating to Canada in 1962, Ondaatje became a Canadian citizen. Ondaatje studied for a time at Bishops College School and Bishop's University in Lennoxville, Quebec, but moved to Toronto and received his BA from the University of Toronto and his MA from Queen's Universit ...more

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“American movies, English books - remember how they all end?" Gamini asked that night. "The American or the Englishman gets on a plane and leaves. That's it. The camera leaves with him. He looks out of the window at Mombasa or Vietnam or Jakarta, someplace now he can look at through the clouds. The tired hero. A couple of words to the girl beside him. He's going home. So the war, to all purposes, is over. That's enough reality for the West. It's probably the history of the last two hundred years of Western political writing. Go home. Write a book. Hit the circuit.” 24 likes
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