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Tony Grist

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Anil's Ghost: Michael Ondaatje [Nov. 13th, 2013|09:36 am]
Tony Grist
A bunch of decent people are caught up in a Civil War- Sri Lanka's as it happens. The decent people are trying to prove- by identifying a modern body found at an archaeological site- that the government is as murderous as its enemies- though why, with the death squads still active, it's so important to be fussing over a five year old murder is hard to say. Sometimes the characters themselves seem a little hazy about what they're doing and why.

Ondaatje is a poet. He's good at giving us a sense of this war as a tiny incident in a history of thousands of years- but not so hot on politics and class and all that stuff that is the novelist's bread and butter.  Yes, the government is as guilty as the rebels- but who are any of these people? What do they believe in?  What are they killing for? In a perspective of millennia these things may not matter very much, but here and now they do. It's fine for the characters to be ignorant of the thing they're caught up in, maybe not so fine for their creator.

Some humour would have been nice. Humour is how human beings have traditionally coped with horror. The ending- beautiful though it is it is- is a steal from Tarkovsky's Andrei Rublev. 

[User Picture]From: halfmoon_mollie
2013-11-13 02:40 pm (UTC)
the fact of the matter is, he IS a poet. I read this book when it first came out and I don't think it's one of his better books, but his use of language is so beautiful I read it anyway.

I think you might like "In the Skin of a Lion" (which introduces some of the characters later in "The English Patient".)
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[User Picture]From: poliphilo
2013-11-14 08:24 am (UTC)
I may well read more of his work. He's a fine writer. I recognize that this review is a little one-sided.
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