cover image Vanni

Vanni

Benjamin Dix and Lindsay Pollock. Penn State Univ, $19.95 trade paper (240p) ISB

Dix and Pollock report on a family ravaged by war, natural disaster, and the decisions of distant powers in a work that manages to remain intimate and generous despite its tragic focus. The Ramachandrans and their neighbors, the Chologars, live in the small village of Chempiyanpattu, on the coast of Sri Lanka—until the 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami and the Sri Lankan civil war send them on a long and arduous trek to a “safe zone” the government keeps moving. This is a story about the Tamil Tigers (whom we see force a young woman into service) and international relief efforts, but what elevates the chronicle into art is the close attention it pays to the Ramachandran family’s attempt to maintain their dignity under fire. Scenes of tent building and frantic attempts to calm children are illuminated by Pollock’s soft, monochromatic use of graphite, while aesthetic details such as the patterns of cloth used for makeshift shelters and the blaring advertisements of a crowded London street are lushly rendered. In following the triumphs and travails of ordinary people in extraordinary circumstances, Dix and Pollock communicate their message with harrowing clarity: war extends far beyond the boundaries of the battlefield. [em](Oct.) [/em]