The Bombs May Have Stopped, But The Wounds of War Are Still Deep


by Anuk Arudpragasam

Anuk Arudpragasam’s second novel, “Gateway to the North,” begins with Krishan learning of the death of his ailing grandmother’s former caregiver, Rani, and ends two days later as she watches Rani’s body burn on her funeral pyre. The pages of intense introspection in between chronicle Krishan’s thoughts and memories on his journey from his home in Colombo, Sri Lanka, to the once Tamil Tiger-controlled village of Rani in the country’s northeast. still stunned from a decades-long civil war.

Rani, who died suddenly and possibly by suicide, was “irreversibly traumatized” by the loss of both of her sons – the first who died fighting for the Tigers, and the second, just 12 years old, killed by shrapnel in the penultimate turn. war day. Krishan, like Arudpragasam, sees it as his duty to grasp her inconceivable suffering. In this novel, listening and noticing are moral acts.

Arudpragasam’s fascinating output, “The Story of a Short Marriage” recounted a single day in the life of Dinesh, a displaced Tamil man living in a refugee camp. “Pass to the North” takes a longer, more distant perspective on the conflict that ran from 1983 to 2009. The middle-class and highly educated Krishan feels “guilty for being spared” the fate of people like Dinesh. The self-disgust that accompanies this guilt is both the cause and the result of Krishan’s persistent obsession with war. From his idealistic beginnings, when the rebels dreamed of an independent Tamil state, Arudpragasam captures Krishan’s sensitive, wandering mind as he meditates on conflict.mindless violence” and irreparable psychological damage. The bombings may have stopped, the capital may be thriving, but for those in the country’s ethnic minority, recovery may only be “partial and uncertain.”

“Gateway to the North” is clearly a political novel in its condemnation of the many atrocities committed by the Sri Lankan government against Tamil civilians, but it is also a philosophical exploration. Arudpragasam, a PhD in philosophy from Columbia, poses fundamental, existential questions about how we should live in a world that suffers so much. What are our obligations to others, especially to those like the marginalized and oppressed Rani? The novel offers only one answer: we owe them our full attention.


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