TUESDAY

Truth, argues Sarath Diyasena in Anil’s Ghost, Michael Ondaatje’s new novel, is to be found not in sediment and buried bones, but in character and nuance and mood. A strange sentiment for an archaeologist, perhaps, but not for his creator. Ondaatje uses archaeology as not just a subject in this, his fourth novel, but as an approach to storytelling. The tale of forensic anthropologist Anil Tissera, a native Sri Lankan who emigrated to the United States and has returned after 15 years to work for an international human rights organization documenting large-scale atrocities in her homeland, proceeds in layered fragments that slowly knit together to recount her search for the identity of a newish skeleton discovered among a sacred cave’s 19th-century dead. Violence, malice, paranoia, dreamlike tableaux, remembered loves, the sensuality and fury of living flesh, and the intertwining of history, land, soil, and bone are all presented with Ondaatje’s trademark lyricism. Ondaatje simultaneously mines Sri Lanka’s bloody, decadelong civil war—sometimes sifting through fine layers, sometimes pulling up bucketfuls of mud—for its impact on doctors, miners, researchers, and the possibility of purely private woes. The Sri Lankan novelist, who won the Booker Prize for his 1992 novel, The English Patient, and now resides in Toronto, will read from his new book at 7 p.m. (tickets will be distributed at 6 p.m.) Tuesday, June 6, at the Freer Gallery of Art’s Meyer Auditorium, 12th and Jefferson Drive SW. Free. (202) 357-2700. (Garance Franke-Ruta)

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