"Perceiving [...] in one's own body" the Violence of History, Politics and Writing: Anil's Ghost and Witness Writing
- Publisher: Sage
This article discusses Michael Ondaatje’s novel Anil’s Ghost as a form of witness writing, which does not become a redemptive spectacle of, or a cure-all solution to, the civil war context of the text. Resisting transparent representation and absolute cognitive mechanisms, Ondaatje’s work bears witness to the irreducibility and opacity of difference through its emphasis on the corporeal and the tangible. Intimate and affectionate, witnessing emerges in the novel as a gesture of micropolitical empowerment whereby unwitnessed stories and unacknowledged witnesses are recognized and validated. Engendering anxiety rather than relief, however, the intimate and disturbing scope of Anil’s Ghost does not redeem history through art; instead, by unsettling the fundamentals of optical transparency and absolute knowledge, this act of witness writing exposes historical whitewashings and excisions, and offers affectionate caress in the irreparable sutures of macropolitical pressures.