Marlene Goldman suggests in her paper "Representations of Buddhism in Ondaatje's Anil's Ghost" 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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