Cover image for Anil's ghost
Anil's ghost
Ondaatje, Michael, 1943-
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Publication Information:
New York : Random House, Inc., [2000]

Physical Description:
7 audio discs (approximately 8 hrs.) : digital ; 4 3/4 in.
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Audiobook on CD


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#7 Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
PR9199.3.O5 A84 2000 V.7 Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
PR9199.3.O5 A84 2000 Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks
PR9199.3.O5 A84 2000 7 DISCS Adult Audiobook on CD Audiobooks

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Read by Alan Cumming 7 CDs, 8 hours From the author ofThe English Patientand winner of the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Canada Governor General's Award, comes a new novel of electric artistry and impact confirming Michael Ondaatje's reputation as one of the world's foremost writers. The time is our own time.  The place Sri Lanka, the island nation off the southern tip of India, a country formerly known as Ceylon, steeped in centuries of cultural achievement and tradition smf forced into the late 20th century by the ravages of civil war and the consequences of a government divided against itself. Into this maelstrom steps a young woman, Anil Tissera, born in Sri Lanka, educated in America, a forensic anthropologist sent by an international human rights group to work with local officials to discover the source of the organized campaigns of murder engulfing the island. Bodies are discovered.  Skeletons.  And particularly one, nicknamed "Sailor."  What follows, in a novel rich with character, emotion, and incident, is a story about love, about family, about identity and the unknown enemy, about the quest to unlock the hidden past and all propelled by a riveting mystery.   Unfolding against the deeply evocative background of Sri Lanka's landscape and ancient civilization,Anil's Ghostis a compelling literary spellbinder and worthy successor toThe English Patient, a novel admired and treasured by countless readers around the world.

Author Notes

Michael Ondaatje was born in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka) on September 12, 1943. He moved to Canada in 1962 and became a Canadian citizen. He received a B.A. from the University of Toronto and a M.A. from Queen's University, Kingston, and taught English at York University. He has written several volumes of poetry, novels, and other works including There's a Trick with a Knife I'm Learning to Do, The Dainty Monsters, Rat Jelly, Coming through Slaughter, Running in the Family, In the Skin of a Lion, Anil's Ghost, and The Cat's Table. His title, Warlight, made the bestseller list in 2018.

Ondaatje has won numerous awards including the Canadian Governor General's Award in 1971 for The Collected Works of Billy the Kid and the Booker Prize in Fiction for The English Patient, which was adapted into a film in 1996.

(Bowker Author Biography) Michael Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka. He now lives in Toronto.

(Publisher Provided)

Reviews 4

Booklist Review

Once upon a time, when one thought of Sri Lanka, one imagined an island paradise. The very name is lovely. How many of us know that since 1983 a ferocious ethnic war between Buddhists and Hindus has torn the island apart and wrought nearly 70,000 casualties? The poet-writer Ondaatje, who lives in Toronto, was born in Sri Lanka. Anil's Ghost, his first novel since the widely acclaimed English Patient (1992), is about the horrible war in his native land. Ondaatje's peripatetic storytelling--the constant shifts from one character or bit of business to another and his poetic sensibilities that tease out just the right words to memorialize his characters--proves perfect for this story. Anil Tissera is a forensic pathologist, born in Sri Lanka and educated in the U.S., who returns as a representative of a human rights organization. In her Sri Lankan youth, "Anil had been an exceptional swimmer . . . and the family never got over it; the talent was locked to her for life." Anil has come to work with Sarath Diyasena, an archaeologist, who on their first meeting greets her with, "So--you are the swimmer!" Their search for the group behind the organized murders on the island is the main plot and the conduit for revealing the nature of the war. Through Anil and Sarath, readers meet the physician Gamini (also Sarath's brother) and spend much time with him on M*A*S*H-like forays into the bloody pit of war; members of the persistent Hindu Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam; and the lost artist Ananda Udugama, who helps Anil and Sarath create a face and identity for the skeleton "Sailor." Ondaatje's plea in this work, circuitous and beautifully told, is simple--a prerequisite of life is proof of existence. --Bonnie Smothers

Publisher's Weekly Review

While he is generally considered a Canadian writer, Booker Prize-winner Ondaatje was born in Sri Lanka, and he has chosen to set his powerful and resonant new novel in that country during its gruesome civil war in the mid-1980s. Written in his usual cryptic, elliptical style, much of the story is told in flashbacks, with Ondaatje hinting at secrets even as he divulges facts, revealing his characters' motivations through their desperate or passionate behavior and, most of all, conveying the essence of a people, a country and its history via individual stories etched against a background of natural beauty and human brutality. 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 partner; at 49, he is emotionally withdrawn from the chaotic contemporary world, reserving his passion for the prehistoric shards of his profession. Together, Anil and Sarath discover that a skeleton interred among ancient bones in a government-protected sanctuary is that of a recently killed young man. Anil defiantly sets out to document this murder by identifying the victim and then making an official report. Throughout their combined forensic and archeological investigation, detailed by Ondaatje with the meticulous accuracy readers will remember from descriptions of the bomb sapper's procedures in The English Patient, Sarath remains a mysterious figure to Anil. Her confusion about his motives is reinforced when she meets his brother, Gamini, an emergency room doctor who is as intimately involved in his country's turmoil as Sarath refuses to be. The lives of these characters, and of others in their orbits, emerge circuitously, layer by layer. In the end, Anil's moral indignation--and her innocence--place her in exquisite danger, and Sarath is moved to a life-defining sacrifice. Here the narrative, whose revelations have been building with a quiet ferocity, assumes the tension of a thriller, its chilling insights augmented by the visceral emotional effects that masterful literature can provide. More effective than a documentary, Ondaatje's novel satisfies one of the most exalted purposes of fiction: to illuminate the human condition through pity and terror. It may well be the capstone of his career. 200,000 first printing; Random House audio. (May) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

After 15 year abroad, forensic pathologist Anil returns to Sri Lanka to help identify victims of the civil war there. This follow-up to The English Patient is the first novel Ondaatje has set in his native country. A 200,000-copy first printing. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

School Library Journal Review

YA-Anil Tissera, a forensic anthropologist, returns to her homeland of Sri Lanka as a member of an international human-rights group investigating abuses that occurred during the country's decade-long civil war. She teams up with Sarath Diyasena, an archaeologist who works for the Sri Lankan government. Together they unearth a skeleton and, using their skills and training, patiently piece together parts of the man's life and violent death. Along the way, they each deal with ghosts of their own. Ondaatje weaves the present time of the story, sometime in the 1990s, with plenty of flashbacks to the characters' pasts. Several of the murders are mentioned in enough detail to relate how the victim was tortured, but none of the specifics are described. Intensely written, the book skillfully conveys the tension, fear, and stress Anil and Sarath feel as they discover the past life, another ghost, of the skeleton they have found. The author shows the hopelessness and inability of the general population to find any way of stopping the unrelenting massacres, all in the name of politics and beliefs. He deftly describes the effects of war on individuals, a nation, and a people as an entity. Young, attractive Anil and her story should appeal to teens who are interested in human rights, and have seen the movie or read Ondaatje's The English Patient.-Pam Johnson, Fairfax County Public Library, VA (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One She arrived in early March, the plane landing at Katunayake airport before the dawn. They had raced it ever since coming over the west coast of India, so that now passengers stepped onto the tarmac in the dark. By the time she was out of the terminal the sun had risen. In the West she'd read, The dawn comes up like thunder, and she knew she was the only one in the classroom to recognize the phrase physically. Though it was never abrupt thunder to her. It was first of all the noise of chickens and carts and modest morning rain or a man squeakily cleaning the windows with newspaper in another part of the house. As soon as her passport with the light-blue UN bar was processed, a young official approached and moved alongside her. She struggled with her suitcases but he offered no help. 'How long has it been? You were born here, no?' 'Fifteen years.' 'You still speak Sinhala?' 'A little. Look, do you mind if I don't talk in the car on the way into Colombo -- I'm jet-lagged. I just want to look. Maybe drink some toddy before it gets too late. Is Gabriel's Saloon still there for head massages?' 'In Kollupitiya, yes. I knew his father.' 'My father knew his father too.' Without touching a single suitcase he organized the loading of the bags into the car. 'Toddy!' He laughed, continuing his conversation. 'First thing after fifteen years. The return of the prodigal.' 'I'm not a prodigal.' An hour later he shook hands energetically with her at the door of the small house they had rented for her. 'There's a meeting tomorrow with Mr. Diyasena.' 'Thank you.' 'You have friends here, no?' 'Not really.' Anil was glad to be alone. There was a scattering of relatives in Colombo, but she had not contacted them to let them know she was returning. She unearthed a sleeping pill from her purse, turned on the fan, chose a sarong and climbed into bed. The thing she had missed most of all were the fans. After she had left Sri Lanka at eighteen, her only real connection was the new sarong her parents sent her every Christmas (which she dutifully wore), and news clippings of swim meets. Anil had been an exceptional swimmer as a teenager, and the family never got over it; the talent was locked to her for life. As far as Sri Lankan families were concerned, if you were a well-known cricketer you could breeze into a career in business on the strength of your spin bowling or one famous inning at the Royal-Thomian match. Anil at sixteen had won the two-mile swim race that was held by the Mount Lavinia Hotel. Each year a hundred people ran into the sea, swam out to a buoy a mile away and swam back to the same beach, the fastest male and the fastest female fêted in the sports pages for a day or so. There was a photograph of her walking out of the surf that January morning -- which The Observer had used with the headline 'Anil Wins It!' and which her father kept in his office. It had been studied by every distant member of the family (those in Australia, Malaysia and England, as well as those on the island), not so much because of her success but for her possible good looks now and in the future. Did she look too large in the hips? The photographer had caught Anil's tired smile in the photograph, her right arm bent up to tear off her rubber swimming cap, some out-of-focus stragglers (she had once known who they were). The black-and-white picture had remained an icon in the family for too long. She pushed the sheet down to the foot of the bed and lay there in the darkened room, facing the waves of air. The island no longer held her by the past. She'd spent the fifteen years since ignoring that early celebrity. Anil had read documents and news reports, full of tragedy, and she had now lived abroad long enough to interpret Sri Lanka with a long-distance gaze. But here it was a more complicated world morally. The streets were still streets, the citizens remained citizens. They shopped, changed jobs, laughed. Yet the darkest Greek tragedies were innocent compared with what was happening here. Heads on stakes. Skeletons dug out of a cocoa pit in Matale. At university Anil had translated lines from Archilochus -- In the hospitality of war we left them their dead to remember us by. But here there was no such gesture to the families of the dead, not even the information of who the enemy was. From the Hardcover edition. Excerpted from Anil's Ghost by Michael Ondaatje All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.