The Enigma of Identity: A Reading of Anil’s Ghost by Michael Ondaatje

by Pier Paolo Piciucco

In this paper I aim at analysing the composite, postcolonial, multicultural and transnational nature of identity emerging in Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, most prominently in the protagonist Anil Tissera. My work progresses through two distinct stages: in the first part I discuss the quality and inner contradictoriness of this developing form of identity using the tools of postcolonial criticism and diaspora studies, basically focusing my attention on the ways in which Anil’s identity undergoes modifications that may also appear ambiguous during her journey from Sri Lanka to England first and US later. Ideologically, that passage brings her from the periphery to the centre of the postcolonial world. In the second part of this paper I intend to shift my attention on how Anil needs to come to terms with the conflicting issues at the very roots of her identity formation as an expatriate: in this section of my work I will also employ Caruth’s Unclaimed Experience, a fundamental text in trauma studies, in order to explain how the effects of past traumatic experiences are mainly responsible for disorientation and alienation in a diasporic subject. This dilemma becomes particularly manifest in the case of an exile’s homecoming, such as Anil Tissera in Anil’s Ghost.