Thursday, January 05, 2017

Sri Lanka: The Story of a Brief Marriage, by Anuk Arudpragasam

This fairly slim novel is set in the last days of the civil war between the Sri Lankan government forces and the rebel forces known as the Tamil Tigers. It takes place in a refugee camp where fleeing civilians, pushed by the conflict further and further to the north east coast of the island, are trapped between the rebel and government forces. Having long since abandoned their meagre possessions, subject to nightly shelling, they are reduced to sleeping, eating what they can and trying to survive.

Dinesh, who helps in the clinic at times but mostly keeps to himself to avoid being conscripted by either side, is approached one day by a man who asks him to marry his daughter. He agrees, and the novel takes place over the space of around twenty four hours. It is intensely detail packed and poetic. The smallest gesture is beautifully described and Dinesh's thought processes closely explored. While set in an area of intense conflict, it is not so much a war story as a deep exploration of what makes us human.

Anuk Arudpragasam is from Colombo, Sri Lanka and this is his debut novel. The blurb states that he writes in English and Tamil, however no translator is cited so I presume this book was written in English. It was published by Granta Books in 2016.

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