Following Anuk Arudpragasam’s book ‘A Passage North’ this year, a newfound literary, cultural and humanitarian interest has developed in the Sri Lankan civil war. And this is for good reason – the war tore apart the island country. In this article, we recommend 5 best books about the Sri Lankan civil war that take varied perspectives to the gory event. There are non fiction books, memoirs and reportage books among these, all of them seeking to make sense of the years that defined Sri Lankan history. But before we get to that, it is important to understand what the civil war was.
Basically, the Sri Lankan civil war, which spanned the years from 1983 to a decade ago, was a violent political upheaval with creed at the forefront. On one side was the Sinhalese dominated Sri Lankan government, and on the other was an insurgent group called LTTE. The LTTE (Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam) were a group of militant Tamilians who demanded equal rights and status as the Sinhalese. The war brough in its wake widespread human, monetary, material, political and social destruction, and left behind an irrefutable scar.
5 Best Books About The Sri Lankan Civil War:
This Divided Island by Samanth Subramanian
This incisive attempt at documenting the legacy of the Sri Lankan civil war is perhaps the most definitive history of the war. With precise sensitivity, Subramniam unravels the political events in which the state and religion conspired to shatter the island country. He discusses how the war seeped into the very soil of the country and soul of its people. It pervaded monasteries, mosques, coasts and hills. Through extensive travel, in depth conversations and meticulous research, he compiles a history that is as devastating as it is urgent.
The Seasons of Trouble by Rohini Mohan
Three decades of Sri Lankan history were steeped in the horror of a war between two factions of society. Ultimately, the war ended when the government killed the LTTE leader, but the ghosts of the war are imminent. This reportage by prize winning journalist Mohan, takes us through the lives of three people amidst the macro scale violence. State authroities pick up an urban Sarva as his mother Indra struggles to find him. A former child soldier, Mugil deserts the LTTE group to protect her family. As we follow their lives and bold decisions, it becomes difficult to remember this is non fiction. It turns into a real horror story.
Tamil Tigress by Niromi de Soyza
This first hand account of a woman who became a part of the LTTE’s first female contingent will give you goosebumps. From an ordinary life in a Sri Lankan middle class family, Niromi made her way from an educated mixed race girl to a militant. She now chronicles how the decision changed her, and the real life experiences she ensured. Apart from the horrors of war, starvation, hunting, a wild life, weaponry, illness and political tensions, she talks about the psychological wounds it left in its wake.
The Cage by Gordon Weiss
This book chronicles the last part of the Sri Lankan civil war. As aforementioned, it took place between the predominantly Sinhalese government and marginalized Tamil and Muslim Sri Lankans. Weiss, a journalist and UN official, views the war from the perspective of international relations, political democracy and ethnic conflict. In the process, he gives a glimpse into the buildup that tore Sri Lanka apart.
In My Mother’s House by Sharika Thiranagama
The marginalized Sri Lankan Muslims and northern Tamilians had to face widespread displacement as a result of the civil war. Thiranagama’s book focuses on these two sub-communities who became the casualties of the civil war in her book. From belonging and displacement to familial strife and domestic impacts of political violence, she discusses important themes.
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5 Best Books About The Sri Lankan Civil War