Representations of Buddhism in Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost

Marlene Goldman, University of Toronto

Post Colonial Literature in English: Canada

This abstract from the CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture appears with the kind permission of Steven Tötösy de Zepetnek. Copyright remains of course with the author and CLCWeb

Marlene Goldman suggests that at first glance Ondaatje appears to promote the idea of a Sri Lankan Buddhist faith as transcending history. Ondaatje introduces the subject of Buddhism early on in the novel, emphasizing initially the devastation wrought by imperial and colonial forces. Goldman, however, argues that subsequent references to Buddhism undermine the initial portrayal of a religion besieged by external imperialist forces. For example, at one point, the character Palipana refers to the assassination of his brother, Narada, a Buddhist monk. Narada was possibly the victim of a "political killing" and rumours suggest he was killed by a novice and thus his death recalls the historical connection between the JVP (termed "the antigovernment insurgents" in the novel) and young Buddhist monks. Goldman argues that rather than offering a sanitized account that ignores Buddhism's enmeshment in politics, Ondaatje's novel addresses the complex relationship between religion, politics, and violence in Sri Lanka.

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Postcolonial Web India OV Canada Michael Ondaatje

Last modified: 12 August 2004