Genre

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Crime fiction is a diverse and appealing genre. It is its unique capacity to evolve and transcend contextual barriers to suit changing paradigms that has ensured its popularity throughout time. Thematically, crime fiction has motifs such as the restoration of order, good overcoming evil, human nature and the completion of justice. However, it is the subversion of these conventions which exemplify the fluidity of the crime fiction genre, and thus, its diverse and appealing nature. The extent of this can be explored in Michael Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost, Marele Day’s The Life and Crimes of Harry Lavender and The Big Sleep, directed by Howard Hawke. Anil’s Ghost presents a post modern metaphysical detection story, holding an ambiguous perception of reality. The text subverts many of the conventions of the genre, particularly the denouement, embracing aspects of postmodernism and blurring the distinctive features of the genre that results in a novel of lyric and poetic features. The investigative figures, ‘pseudo-detectives’ Anil, notably female, and Sarath, operate outside the law in the strictest secrecy to investigate rather than to solve a crime where the accretion of evidence is a historical and scientific process. There is a realistic solving of the crime, with reliance on rational interrelation. Moreover, as traditional detectives and sleuths usually have a degree of authority, in Anil’s Ghost this is not the case, as revealed by the statement “doors that should be open are closed.” Ondaatje’s political comment and Anil’s search for truth overturns many of the conventions of crime fiction. Through postmodern values, Ondaatje represents the changing values and attitudes of the world that include rejection of an “absolute truth”- reflected in the text’s conclusion that evades a sense of justice and closure, as the context of Sri Lanka makes this impossible. The text presents humanity in a contemporary context, the political turmoil of Sri Lanka, a culturally...
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