Tag Archives: Sri Lanka

** The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

I’m hesitant to recommend The Story of a Brief Marriage because it is so bleak. Not the marriage itself, however very brief and tragic it is, but the setting, in a refugee camp in Sri Lanka, which is regularly bombed by the army and where everyday life is about dead bodies, amputations without anesthesia, and general despair. I almost closed the book after twenty pages of horror.

But if you persevere, you will encounter a wonderful scene of the husband taking an improvised bath next to the well, washing away months of grime, and delighting in the simple pleasure of being clean, with trimmed fingernails and hair, and clean clothes. It’s a magical moment. But it’s just a few pages long.

 

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Filed under New fiction

** Running in the Family by Michael Ondaatje


Running in the Family is a highly literary memoir of the author, or perhaps more accurately the story of his family, told through a trip he took to his native Sri Lanka as an adult. His family is high in color, whether it is his quixotic grandmother, stealing flowers to bring to her hosts once her wealth has run out, or his troubled, alcoholic father who uses his military weapon to stop trains to wait for his friend who missed it — and also happens to be a cactus gardener. I very much enjoyed the portraits. The overall feel of the book was a little too loose for me, jumping from one topic to another and mixing in poetry I did not care for.

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** On Sal Mal Lane by Ru Freeman

On Sal Mal Lane tells the story of the children (and adults, but in the background) of a small street in Columbo, the capital of Sri Lanka, in the years before the Sri Lankan civil war. The families are carefully staged to represent the various ethnicities of Sri Lanka, and all the other details carefully arranged for maximum exposure to the riots to come. The children’s dialogs, feelings, and interactions are artfully captured and feel fresh and realistic. Alas, the political complications are told in a plodding and heavily didactic manner that clash with the personal stories. A waste of a tender story.

 

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