This Divided Island: Life, Death, and the Sri Lankan War

Samanth Subramanian. St. Martin's/Dunne, $27.99 (352p) ISBN 978-1-250-06974-0
In this engaging work of literary nonfiction, Subramanian (Following Fish), a New Delhi–based journalist, provides a harrowing yet captivating account of wartime and postwar Sri Lanka. The decades-long conflict (with official dates of 1983–2009, though tensions date back to the '70s) was rooted in British colonial-era privileges of the minority Tamils, who "through quirks of colonial history" spoke better English and received better educations than the majority Sinhalese, and thus enjoyed various social and economic benefits. After independence in 1948, the Sinhalese, who had long resented Tamil privileges, engaged in aggressive, vindictive majoritarianism, enacting laws to protect Sinhalese interests and gradually erode Tamil rights and culture. Such discrimination—accompanied by violent, retributive, and often state-sanctioned riots, as well as outright massacres—led to the rise of Tamil militant groups, most visibly the Tigers, who agitated for a separate, sovereign homeland and were prone to committing acts of terror against the government, civilians, rival militant groups, and insufficiently obedient members of their own ranks. Subramanian travels throughout postwar Sri Lanka and shares absorbing anecdotes and conversations—with former Tiger militants, former members of the armed forces, journalists, affected civilians, and even members of the international diaspora—woven together with engaging, creative prose to forge a first-rate historical narrative. Subramanian's balanced, beautifully written reportorial travelogue smartly reveals Sri Lanka's complex conflict to international audiences. (Dec.)
Reviewed on: 01/04/2016
Release date: 12/01/2015
Genre: Nonfiction
Ebook - 978-1-4668-7874-7
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