Sri Lankan Skeletons

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Author: Rachel Cusk
Editor: Janet Witalec
Date: 2004
Publisher: Gale
Document Type: Critical essay
Length: 882 words

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[(review date 8 May 2000) In the following review, Cusk highlights the thematic significance of war and death in Anil's Ghost.]

Even when writing of corruption, death and decay, Michael Ondaatje's prose is the very opposite of unsavoury. "He loosened a new tungsten carbide needle from its plastic container and attached it to a hand pick and began cleaning the bones of the first skeleton, drilling free the fragments of dirt. Then he turned on a slim hose and let it hover over each bone, air nestling into the evidence of the trauma as if he were blowing cool breath from a pursed mouth on to a child's burn." The refinement of Ondaatje's expression acts as a balm on his subject, nestling into the evidence of its trauma. He has a way with hurt bodies, hurt minds, with what is fragile. The professions of archaeology, medicine and pathology with which his new novel concerns itself exert for him, one senses, a real occupational attraction.

The key to Anil's Ghost lies near its end, in a conversation about western culture's relationship with war. "'American movies, English books--remember how they all end? 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,...

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Gale Document Number: GALE|H1100053100