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[ â á Ũ ¢ (Michael Ondaatje ) 'ɢĢ Ţ' (Anil's Ghost) Ȣ Ǣ Ψ¢. '׸Ǣ' ȡ.]
 

anil's Ghost¢ Ţ Ȣ âŢ ؾ Ȣ ɡŢ â. Ţ: ¢ ɢ Ҹ Ȣ .Ӿġ ɡ: "" Ţ측 (ؾ Ţ)
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ɡ: "Anil's Ghost" á Ģá ؾ
http://www.thenation.com/issue/000619/0619leclair.shtml

ɢĢ Ţ¢ 츢 ɦȡ, ؾ Michael Ondaatje , м ؾ 'The English Patient'
Ҿ â. ¡Ǣ 򾢨 Ţ; ڨ¢; ̾¡ ǧ¡Ǣ ; н Ţ.

Ǣ ɢĢ Ţ 򾨸 Ҿ á Ģ 񧽡򾢧 Ģ¢츢ȡ.š, 측 ( â¡Ţ "The Paradise" 즸) ġâǢ Ȣ 󧾸 . , 󾾢 ᢠǢ  Ȣ 츢 Ģ ġ ɡ š ġ. á Ģ Ш Ţ. š ɡ 츢򾢧 Ȣ, " , " 즸. 򾢧, ɢĢ Ţ 츢. 

Michel Ondaatje 츢 Ȣ š Ԧȡ, š측 Ţ ;
"â 񦽨 ."

Ţ Ȣ; ¢ ɢ áӸ Ĩ Ģ즸ġ. ɡ, ú;  úš . ɡ, ʸ; 즸. The Nation Ũ򾢧 Ǣ¡ ɡŢ 츢.

ANIL'S GHOST.
By Michael Ondaatje.
Knopf. 311 pp. $25.

Purchase this book online from Amazon.com
http://www.amazon.com/exec/obidos/ISBN=0375410538/thenationA/103-1586014-3087838
 

------------------ ǢΨ -----------------
The Sri Lankan Patients 
by TOM LeCLAIR 

This time none of that lollygagging elusiveness that began The English 
Patient. Not that novel's gauzy "she" but Anil Tissera, 33-year-old forensic 
anthropologist returning to her native Sri Lanka to investigate possible 
human rights violations. We know almost immediately that she left the country 
at 18 to be educated in England and America, and that her Western training 
has given her both an attitude and an appetite for unearthing truth. Anil 
meets her co-investigator, Sarath Diyasena, a 49-year-old male archeologist 
who, like Anil, comes from a well-to-do Colombo family. In the first fifty 
pages, Anil and Sarath uncover a skeleton that has been reburied in a 
government archeological preserve.

The detection begins. Who was the skeleton they call Sailor? Who tried to 
burn his bones? The skeleton is a mystery but not the romantic enigma slowly 
dying in The English Patient. And the violence has not receded, as it had in 
World War II Italy. The time is almost now, and all around the detectives are 
reports of terror--by the southern insurgents, the northern guerrillas, 
perhaps by government hit squads.

Anil and Sarath drive into the countryside to ask for help from Sarath's 
former professor, a now-blind epigraphist living in the "Grove of Ascetics," 
a Buddhist forest monastery. We get a few pages of the esoteric history and 
exotic sensibility Ondaatje loves, but on the way back to Colombo the present 
asserts itself when the investigators find a man nailed to the highway. They 
take him to a hospital where Sarath's brother, Gamini, works as an emergency 
services doctor. He describes in gruesome detail the victims of terror 
bombings. The prose is concrete, direct, wearied. You wouldn't know Ondaatje 
has published eleven volumes of poetry.

Who is responsible for the terror? Who killed Sailor? Anil and Sarath drive 
to the south and hire a miner named Ananda to reconstruct the skeleton's head 
so the victim can be identified. Here we get some of the researched expertise 
Ondaatje also loves; Ananda's reconstruction is like Kip's deconstruction of 
bombs in The English Patient. But the face Ananda rebuilds doesn't aid the 
investigators, for it's a ghost's, not Sailor's. The expression is serene, 
the look Ananda hopes is on the face of his disappeared wife.

Halfway through the book, Ondaatje's purposeful pace slows. Perhaps now we'll 
begin to understand why thousands of Sri Lankans are killed or disappeared 
every year--but no, we get instead a hundred pages of flashbacks about the 
characters' tragic loves, "The Sri Lankan Patients." Anil was unhappily 
married in England, stabbed her married lover in California and found that 
her lesbian lover, Leaf, has Alzheimer's. Perhaps past personal failure, not 
future public truth, has brought Anil back to Sri Lanka.

Gamini was in love with Sarath's wife, married someone else, became obsessed 
with his medical practice, started taking amphetamines and lost his wife. Now 
he often sleeps in the wards. After Sarath's wife committed suicide, he 
immured himself in his archeological studies. Only Ananda has lost a spouse 
to terror, perhaps the reason he tries to commit suicide after bringing "her" 
back. Gamini and Sarath are killing themselves more slowly, indirectly.

This middle section of Anil's Ghost resembles the beginning of The English 
Patient: rapid switching among characters, times, locales. The novel becomes 
self-conscious and defensive about abandoning its detective plot. In a 
flashback, Anil and her lover Leaf watch movies on a VCR: "the films 
staggered backwards and forwards...until the actions became clear to them." 
Leaf says, "I'm just a detail from the subplot, right." Sarath seems to speak 
for this long section when he disagrees with Anil's definition of truth as 
verifiable and public. For Sarath and Ondaatje, truth is "in character and 
nuance and mood." While Ananda continues the reconstruction of the skull, 
Anil engages in moody meditations, attends to the nuances of plant life and 
the decaying house where he works.

In the last thirty pages Ondaatje rushes Anil's Ghost to its conclusion. We 
do get a public truth--that the government killed Sailor, who was suspected 
of sympathizing with the insurgents. Or perhaps with the guerrillas. It 
doesn't make much difference because Ondaatje never provides any information 
about the two groups or why they're killing people. Anil takes her forensic 
findings to government authorities; Sarath saves her from detention or worse 
by pretending to undermine her truth; Gamini discovers Sarath's body several 
days later; and, finally, Ananda finds new employment reconstructing a tall 
statue of the Buddha that had been toppled not by terrorists but by 
impoverished people seeking a treasure within. So, five pages from the end 
Ondaatje offers this one small gesture of understanding a cause of political 
terror.

Sarath and Gamini, educated Sinhalese residents of Sri Lanka, must know the 
causes, the fist of recent history: the economic effects of postcolonialism, 
the religious conflict between Hindus and Buddhists, the ethnic hatred 
between several groups of Tamils and the dominant Sinhalese. Anil, who is 
Sinhalese, also knows. So does Ondaatje. But the reader never learns about 
this history. What happened in the courts of sixth-century Sri Lanka or 
fifth-century-BC China, yes. But not in the past thirty years in what used to 
be Ceylon.

"A good archaeologist can read a bucket of soil as if it were a complex 
historical novel," thinks Anil. The formula should be reversible, but 
Ondaatje shows no interest in the soil and roots of ethnic oppression. 
Instead he repeats the blind epigrapher's near-tautology: "The main purpose 
of war had become war."

* * *

Ondaatje does indict the Sinhalese government in the deaths of Sailor and 
Sarath, but the human rights activist Anil gets Sarath killed in the process 
of exposing her truth; she and her finding disappear from the novel. But just 
after Gamini discovers his brother's body, Ondaatje describes in horrific 
detail a terrorist blowing up himself, the president of the country and a 
bunch of other people. The novelist tips the quantitative scale as well as 
his hand, identifying the terrorist only as D----. No ethnic identity, no 
political affiliation, no history. It's D----'s tragedy that I want to know. 
For what public love or political hate did he kill himself?

But Ondaatje doesn't look there. He takes the long view. The reconstructed 
Buddha of the Sinhalese gazes across killing fields, sees what Ondaatje 
implies is the human condition anytime, anywhere: senseless violence, pockets 
of love. Ondaatje and the Buddha could be right, but the author's apolitical 
gaze seems irresponsible when there's so much politics to see in Sri Lanka. 
Sarath and Gamini criticize Western journalists for swooping into Sri Lanka, 
tossing off some reductive political analysis and leaving. I don't see the 
difference between that and Ondaatje revisiting his native land, observing 
victims, avoiding political analysis and then retreating to Canada.

While standing on a platform, preparing to paint in the Buddha's eyes, Ananda 
feels that as an artificer "he did not celebrate the greatness of a faith. 
But he knew if he did not remain an artificer he would become a demon. The 
war around him was to do with demons, spectres of retaliation." This is 
high-minded consciousness for a man whose former work had him on hands and 
knees in muck hundreds of feet below the earth's surface. Ananda sounds like 
the author's apologist. I'm not asking the artificer who invented Ananda to 
be a demon, but Ondaatje must know that his highly selective contrivance will 
retaliate somewhere, that its silence on class and religion and ethnic 
prejudice can comfort those with historic or recent privilege.

* * *

Despite its evasions, Anil's Ghost could still be a courageous book. I doubt 
that Ondaatje will suffer Salman Rushdie's fate, but given the ongoing 
disappearances in Sri Lanka, Ondaatje may well not wish to return there soon. 
He went back in 1978 and 1980, then wrote a poetic and nostalgic memoir, 
Running in the Family, about his once-wealthy family of eccentrics. In that 
book, too, he turns away from politics to personal lives. At the age of 11, 
Michael was ripped from wealth and homeland by his parents' divorce. One 
understands why The English Patient and Anil's Ghost foreground tempestuous, 
failed loves. Still, to use terror as a background for class nostalgia and 
romance seems overkill.

In a recent interview on Anil's Ghost, Ondaatje said, "Certain words, certain 
phrases are said so often that they come to have no reverberation. 'Human 
rights,' the phrase is indivisible, but the words mean nothing to me. When I 
hear the word 'politics' I roll my eyes, or if I hear a political speech I 
can't listen to it. And so in a way I burrow underneath these words, and I 
try not to refer to them. The words are like old coins. They just don't feel 
real."

For Ondaatje, "real" words are those the poet can sneak into the minds and 
mouths of highly educated and exquisitely sensitive characters. Anil 
distrusts Sarath for his retreat into the "aesthetic." Ondaatje should 
distrust himself. Now I don't trust his collage method. It's a way to avoid 
banal, "old coin" cause and effect, the logic by which human rights are 
denied or defended.

In Don DeLillo's Mao II, a wordsmith novelist like Ondaatje complains that 
terrorists have usurped the role of novelists in contemporary culture. One 
way for the novelist to regain power is to occupy the mind of the terrorist, 
as DeLillo does in that novel. Another way is to explore the terrible 
conditions from which terror arises, as A. Sivanandan does in his 1998 novel 
about Tamils in Sri Lanka, When Memory Dies.

In Anil's Ghost Ondaatje chooses to write his "real" words and beautiful 
sentences for the walking ghosts of Sri Lanka, the traumatized apolitical 
survivors. But what about the dead? The tens of thousands of dead--the women 
and men, Tamils and Sinhalese, poor and rich, the loved and unloved, who died 
or murdered for political causes, however misguided, necessary or 
crazy--deserve more understanding and respect than Ondaatje gives them.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Tom LeClair's novel about Kurdish asylum-seekers, Well-Founded Fear, will be 
published in July by Olin Frederick. 

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â :  .,â 2000