Sri Lankan author Anuk Arudpragasam’s novel “A Passage North” (Penguin India) that transports the reader from Colombo to the war-torn Northern Province and lays bare the imprints of an islands past and the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek, has moved to the shortlist for The Booker Prize 2021.
It’s a searing novel of longing, loss and the legacy of war, from the author of “The Story of a Brief Marriage”.
“A Passage North” begins with a message from out of the blue: a telephone call informing the protagonist, Krishan, that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died under unexpected circumstances – found at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall.
The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishnan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi, stirring old memories and desires from a world he left behind.
As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the devastated Northern Province for Rani’s funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the innermost reaches of a country.
At once a powerful meditation on absence and longing, as well as an unsparing account of the legacy of Sri Lanka’s 30-year civil war, this procession to a pyre “at the end of the earth” lays bare the imprints of an island’s past and the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek.
Written with precision and grace, the masterful novel is an attempt to come to terms with life in the wake of devastation, and a poignant memorial for those lost and those still alive.
Anuk Arudpragasam was born in Colombo and moved to the United States at the age of 18, where he attended Stanford and Columbia Universities. His first novel, “The Story of a Brief Marriage”, was translated into six languages, won the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature and was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize. He currently divides his time between Sri Lanka and India.