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Contemporary History In "Anil’s Ghost" Essay

1790 words - 7 pages

There is always a problem of historical inaccuracies in fiction. When certain historical events become a part of the narrative (especially when these events are controversial), it is important to understand what they mean in the author’s conception of history and reality in general. Far more important is to understand their place in this conception when we see that the author’s depiction of facts is unusual and what he does seems to be not the reflection of existing reality but the deconstruction of a different one. Terrorism, civil war, separatism – it is hard to remember the themes that would be more complicated and controversial in the modern world, because questions like these never have a certain answer. Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost is a good example of a novel that deals with the most important problems of contemporary history.
Anil’s Ghost, first published in 2000, and is dedicated to events of Sri Lankan Civil War. Michael Ondaatje claimed in interviews that his book is not “just about Sri Lanka; it could be Guatemala or Bosnia or Ireland” (Scanlan 302) – so it can be suggested that the author is trying to describe not this particular conflict, but the situation in general. In another interview Ondaatje says: “Anil's Ghost is a more faithful or more nonfictive version. It's a fiction. It is a novel, and it is also a point of view” (Coughlan). Sri Lanka is mentioned as one of the places in which the war “always seems to be there, and nobody goes to it anymore” (Champeon). The conflict that still takes place is set between the government and Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam, a separatist group. Different issues state that at the moment the number of victims is about 80.000 people.
The action takes place at the end of 1980’s (the war began in 1983). The main character of the story, Anil Tissera, comes back to her homeland as a part of Human Rights organization and discovers that violence and fear rule the country even though officially the war is over. As she finds a skeleton of a man, who might have been dead recently, she tries her best to know who it was and what was his name – if this happens, this body can be an evidence of government’s crimes. Everyone who is met by Anil during her journey had lost their beloved ones, which are kidnapped or murdered – so, the nameless body found by Anil becomes a symbol of all victims of the war. That is why it has to get a name and a face, to be identified. This symbol appears in several passages of the text in different situations. For example: “The doctors didn't use names. Tags were put on the right wrist, or on a right foot if there was no arm. Red for Neuro, green for Orthopaedic, yellow for Surgery. No profession or race. ...Names were recorded later if the survivors could speak, in case they died”.
Though people help Anil, they often don’t see any sense in recalling their losses – they got used to live in fear. It is clear that the appearance of proofs may cause the new wave of...

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