Anil's Curse

Friday March 17, 2006 @ 06:16 PM (UTC)

A few weeks ago, I picked up a copy of Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje, recorded on tapes. The reader was Alan Cummings, and he was perfect; I loved listening to the story, time-jumping and lyrical, as it trickled out of my boombox in his quiet, precise voice. By the second-to-last cassette, however, that voice had acquired an unnatural sing-song quality. Loud, soft, loud, soft, in a pattern my father says is caused by demagnetization of just one side of the cassette. I struggled through that tape, rewinding to catch every word. The last tape, however, was hopeless.

Today, I went to the library to get the book on paper, and finish that last sixth of the work. What should I find, however? They have several audio copies of it! In looking for the CD copy, I found tapes. I paid my overdue fines, checked out my treasure, and rushed out to my car. I listened to almost half of the second-to-last tape over again, getting my bearings in the stream of words. I put in the last tape.

She left him eventually, in the Una Palma Motel room in Bottega Springs. Left nothing of herself for him to hold onto.



If you ask me, Anil’s curse was being named Anil.

Actually, your comment is rather droll if one has read the book, as the character was NOT named Anil, which is a boy’s name in Sri Lanka. It was her older brother’s middle name, and she bought it off of him for a pencil case, some largish number of rupees, and other things I cannot remember.

So if it is a curse, she asked for it.

But even if she asked for the curse, does the reader neccessarily have to suffer? I adore everything else Ondaatje’s written [okay, I haven’t made it through Billy the Kid yet—it’s hard!], but Anil’s Ghost just didn’t do it for me. I just didn’t feel the magic I got from English Patient, Skin of a Lion, Coming Through Slaughter, & his poetry.

And for the record, I think Anil is a beautiful name.

Heh…I actually love Anil’s Ghost, and the only other thing I’d read of his, The English Patient, I liked but didn’t love. I decided on the first tape of Anil’s Ghost that I needed to go back and reread English Patient in a more leisurely way. I figured, if I like THIS book so much, then I must have missed something in the other! I may just have a weakness for fiction set in South Asia. Or he may ruin it in the last sixth! :P

There was a boy in my elementary and middle schools named Anil, but he pronounced it uh-NEEL (or allowed us to do so) and Alan Cummings is pronouncing it A-nil. Since he seems to have a masterful grasp on the place names and such, I am confused.

I do suggest a leisurely reread of TEP, but it’s not quite as good as either In the Skin of a Lion or Coming through Slaughter. Theformer is quite similar to it; I just find early 20th century Canada more romantic than 40’s Italy. The latter is not as enjoyable as either, but a more interesting form. It’s the historical fiction of Jazz pioneer Buddy Bolden, and is told on the prose side of a poetry/prose montage.

His poetry’s not bad either.

Well, sirrah, I finished Anil’s Ghost this morning, and found it thoroughly beautiful and effective all the way through.

As I mentioned, I have a weakness for novels set in South Asia; and there are, I guess, other things that would prejudice me in the book’s favor. However, I really loved his technique, in general, as well.

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