Anil's Ghost

Kobo ebook | October 8, 2010

byMichael Ondaatje

not yet rated|write a review
Following the phenomenal success of Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning third novel, The English Patient, expectations were almost insurmountable. The internationally acclaimed #1 bestseller had made Ondaatje the first Canadian novelist ever to win the Booker. Four years later, in 1996, a motion picture based on the book brought the story to a vast new audience. The film, starring Ralph Fiennes and Juliette Binoche, went on to win numerous prizes, among them nine Academy Awards, including Best Picture. Worldwide English-language sales of the book topped two million copies.

But in April 2000, Anil’s Ghost was widely hailed as Ondaatje’s most powerful and engrossing novel to date. Winning a Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize and the Giller Prize, Anil’s Ghost became an international bestseller. “Nowhere has Ondaatje written more beautifully,” said The New York Times Book Review.

The setting is Sri Lanka. Steeped in centuries of cultural achievement and tradition, the country has been ravaged in the late twentieth century by bloody civil war. As in The English Patient, Ondaatje’s latest novel follows a woman’s attempt to piece together the lost life of a victim of war. Anil Tissera, born in Sri Lanka but educated in England and the U.S., is sent by an international human rights group to participate in an investigation into suspected mass political murders in her homeland. Working with an archaeologist, she discovers a skeleton whose identity takes Anil on a fascinating journey that involves a riveting mystery. What follows, in a novel rich with character, emotion, and incident, is a story about love and loss, about family, identity and the unknown enemy. And it is a quest to unlock the hidden past – like a handful of soil analyzed by an archaeologist, the story becomes more diffuse the farther we reach into history.

A universal tale of the casualties of war, unfolding as a detective story, the book gradually gives way to a more intricate exploration of its characters, a symphony of loss and loneliness haunted by a cast of solitary strangers and ghosts. The atrocities of a seemingly futile, muddled war are juxtaposed against the ancient, complex and ultimately redemptive culture and landscape of Sri Lanka.

Anil’s Ghost is Michael Ondaatje's first novel to be set in the country of his birth. “There’s a tendency with us in England and North America to say it’s a book ‘about Sri Lanka.’ But it’s just my take on a few characters, a personal tunnelling into that … The book’s not just about Sri Lanka; it’s a story that’s very familiar in other parts of the world” – in Africa, in Yugoslavia, in South America, in Ireland. “I didn’t want it to be a political tract. I wanted it to be a human study of people in the midst of fear.”

From the Trade Paperback edition.

Pricing and Purchase Info


Available for download
Not available in stores

From the Publisher

Following the phenomenal success of Michael Ondaatje’s Booker Prize-winning third novel, The English Patient, expectations were almost insurmountable. The internationally acclaimed #1 bestseller had made Ondaatje the first Canadian novelist ever to win the Booker. Four years later, in 1996, a motion picture based on the book brought th...

Format:Kobo ebookPublished:October 8, 2010Publisher:Knopf CanadaLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0307375897

ISBN - 13:9780307375896

Look for similar items by category:


Rated 5 out of 5 by from A masterpiece Ondaatje is a master of subtlety, of the ambiguity of life, of the grey that washes extreme situations. He is at his best in Anil's Ghost. The story itself is a simple one: a woman (Anil) searches for the identity of a skeleton she finds when on an international human rights mission in war ravaged Sri Lanka. But as with most stories Ondaatje tells, simplicity becomes weighted with the emotional enganglements of both political and personal history. There is a conversation beneath the dialogue, a narrative never told but eloquent in its silence. In some ways, I was reminded of Geoff Ryman's The King's Last Song. There is that same sense of a country unable to celebrate its vibrant history, left only with silent screams of those slaughtered on the altar of political expedience, and their ghosts. There is an eeriness in the environment Ondaatje creates. Deserving of it accolades, Anil's Ghost is a masterpiece.
Date published: 2012-03-22
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Awful I finished this book by skim reading it and am sure I didn't miss a thing. Read the first half but the story jumps around so much,even sentence to sentence that it just made me angry. Sentences are suppose to lead in to each other, not leap all over the place. I found this book a collection of disjointed thoughts and ideas that left no sense of having gone anywhere. I will not be buying any more of his books.
Date published: 2011-10-20
Rated 1 out of 5 by from Torture Reading this book was basically like torture. Most of the time I was lost. I had no idea what was happening. I only read it because of school, otherwise, I will never read this book again.
Date published: 2009-12-05
Rated 4 out of 5 by from Haunting Only a handful of authors have the ability to write a verbal cinema, but luckily for Canada, Ondaajte is one of them. "Anil's Ghost" follows the superiority of "The English Patient" while introducing to the new millennium a fictitious piece flooded with graceful phrases and beautiful images exploding amid the tribulations of the late twentieth century Sri Lankan civil war. Ondaatje allows the reader to enter a world of unparalleled exotic beauty but then contrasts this with the dark evils of genocide. Anil Tissera, a skilled anthropologist and archeologist, is sent to her homeland of Ceylon to uncover who is involved in the island's mysterious murders. By returning from abroad she is distrusted by her people in the same way they distrust government officials and guerilla separtists. Digging beneath the layers of her past, Anil must search for meaning in the present to understand herself and regain her sense of belonging. Her journey is one that reexamines the significance of humanity, history, and self.
Date published: 2006-07-13
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Meticulous Metaphors! A daring and triumphant piece. Ondaatje's mastery of rhetoric made this a work that was impossible to put down. A shocking account of war in a country unfamilliar to western audiences. This is a must read. Enjoy!
Date published: 2006-06-12
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Perfection This prose made my heart move in a way it never has before. Ondaatje inserts 'random' pieces of anthropological knowledge that create wonderful lucidity. The blood rushes through me as he illustrates the beauty of the fragility of human life. More than remarkable. boomboomboomboom.
Date published: 2004-05-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Amazing Michael Ondaatje has proven again that, while the meaning in his book is not always immediately evident, it is well worth it to sit and ponder, for in Anil's Ghost is a vision of humanity that encompases compassion and understanding in the face of hate and injustice. Ondaatje's background (emmigrated from Sri Lanka in '63) allows him to have an educated (has he ever provided any less) point of view of the society in which he has based this tale. His background as a poet is ever evident and the prose flows like a song. I can hardly wait until his next.
Date published: 2003-08-03
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Anil's Ghost Reading this book is the literary equivalent of being locked in the bathroom with an 8-year-old Canadian Tire catalogue.
Date published: 2002-09-24
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Beneath the chaos There is, when one looks at the book from a romantic sense, a stunning simplcity that, in it's essence, eradicates nihilism from literature. One can accept this book at face value and not feel like they have ignored it. There is an instictive element that grasps your attention, subconsciously, and pulls you through the, somewhat, melencholy story. Oscar Wilde said, I'll believe anything as long as it's incredible, and one can easily believe this book.
Date published: 2002-02-19
Rated 2 out of 5 by from Storytelling without the story Ondaatje proved to be the master of the character descriptions. Only, in this extensive, 300-page character workout, he forgot to include the story. His perfectly described heroes exist in a storyless vacuum, author leaving the readers to wonder about the causes and circumstances leading to the situation he writes about. At the end, Anil didnÕt face her ghost, we find out almost nothing about her childhood in Sri Lanka, which would bring up the ghost. The chaos in the country, which would help us understand her fear, never develops into a true event, but we learn a thing or two about pathology along the way. It must have been a slow year in Canadian literature when ÒAnilÕs GhostÓ won its awards. From the author of ÒThe English PatientÓ one would expect more. Much more.
Date published: 2002-01-17
Rated 5 out of 5 by from Not just another assignment Ahh, yet another novel assigned for yet another class...or is it? Reading this book for a university class was completely different than reading it "for fun", yet threw lights on it I never would have experienced. Set in Ondaatje's native Sri Lanka, this book can really be called nothing but the over-used adjective 'haunting'. But it is haunting, literally. All of the characters are in some way haunted, whether it be by their past, their expected or non-existant future, or by people they cannot let go of. My advice while reading this book: If you are going to great lengths and putting out great effort to try to put all the events and characters into order, you will miss out. Don't over-obsess about why some sections are italicized and some aren't, or asking where does this person "fit", try not to focus on making it all MAKE SENSE, and just let the images and story take'll end up understanding more in the end if you do. This book is three thumbs up!!
Date published: 2001-04-17