3 Books Explore Sri Lanka’s Past (Violent and Otherwise)

It has been only 10 years since the decades-long civil war in Sri Lanka ended. Now the island has been hit by violence again, with a series of coordinated suicide bomb attacks that killed nearly 300 people. These books offer context about the country and the toll that the tension between the Buddhist majority and Tamil minority has had on its people.

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THIS DIVIDED ISLAND
Life, Death and the Sri Lankan War
Samanth Subramanian
336 pp. Thomas Dunne Books. (2015)

The Sri Lankan Civil War, which lasted nearly 30 years and ended in 2009, was a bloody conflict borne from the tension between minority Tamil groups and Sinhalese Buddhists. Subramanian recounts the war and its aftermath, exploring how war and mass death changed the country and its people.

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ISLAND OF A THOUSAND MIRRORS
By Nayomi Munaweera
242 pp. St. Martin’s Press. (2014)

This novel is told from the perspective of two girls, Yasodhara and Saraswathie, whose lives become connected after Saraswathie, who is Tamil, is arrested by a group of Sinhala soldiers. “The beating heart of ‘Island of a Thousand Mirrors’ is not so much its human characters but Sri Lanka itself and the vivid, occasionally incandescent, language used to describe this teardrop in the Indian Ocean,” our reviewer wrote.

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RUNNING IN THE FAMILY
By Michael Ondaatje
208 pp. Vintage International. (1983)

In this memoir, Ondaatje, who would go on to win the Booker Prize for his novel “The English Patient,” writes about his return to his native Sri Lanka in the late 1970s. He digs into his family’s Dutch-Ceylonese heritage and describes growing up in 1940s Sri Lanka, before his family left when he was 11.

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