Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

Anna (1909-1969)

by Sachi Sri Kantha, September 12, 2013 Book in Review Anna: The Life and Times of C.N. Annadurai, by R.Kannan, Penguin Books India Pvt.Ltd., New Delhi, 2010, 423 pp. September 15th marks the 104th birth anniversary of Conjeevaram Natarajan Annadurai, who was popularly known to all Tamils by the dimunitive prefix ‘Anna’. When he died… Read more »

Waves of War

by Andreas Wimmer, Cambridge University Press, 2013 Introduction of book at https://www.princeton.edu/~awimmer/WavesIntro.pdf Book review by G. John Ikenberry, ‘Foreign Affairs,’ New York, Sept./Oct. issue Beginning in the nineteenth century, cycles of violent upheaval and world war collapsed empires and dynastic kingdoms, while the nation-state spread to every corner of the globe. This ambitious book provides one… Read more »

Island of a Thousand Mirrors

What it fails to entirely achieve is historical perspective—not everyone is well acquainted with the origins and details of the Tamil-Sinhala conflict. But what it does achieve, and quite remarkably so, is an idyllic, near-perfect picture of the island, beaded together from the childhood nostalgia of generations…

Rumblings of upheaval are too distant from their lives in Colombo. But when violence steps across their threshold, it tears the family asunder; Nishan, Visaka and their children flee to the United States,

A Writer Who Fought and Died for Tamil Eelam

Book title: War Journey – Diary of a Tamil Tiger Author: MalaravanPublisher: Penguin BooksPages: 123 This is the English version of a war diary that a LTTE fighter, known by his nom de guerre Malaravan, maintained – and which was found by fellow guerrillas after his death in November 1992. This diary of combat – and emotions – is an important piece of historical… Read more »

COIN & Sri Lanka

While state police forces and right-wing media in India, the local partner in the genocide, keep hailing the ‘Sri Lanka solution’ as appropriate to deal with the Maoist insurgency, influential military thinkers in the US appear to be doing a professional, scientific study of the Sri Lankan model and its applicability to other contexts….

He argues that Sri Lanka’s victory “has led some people in the counterinsurgency community to question the basic precepts of classical counterinsurgency as understood in the West which advocates protecting the population and focusing on political primacy as a means to win over the population and isolate the insurgent and forge a lasting peace.”

Further, “Sri Lanka in this case shows a different path, somewhat in contradiction to these prescriptions and produced both quick and decisive results. Firstly, counterinsurgency is at its heart – a counter adaptation level – a struggle to develop and apply new techniques in a fast moving high threat environment against an enemy that’s continually updating and developing. Counterinsurgency isn’t defined by a single, specific set of techniques rather a combination of techniques used for a particular insurgency under particular circumstances. Sri Lanka’s approach embodied that principle.”

Most ironically, in his book ‘Counterinsurgency’ published in 2010, Dr. Kilcullen had advocated that “Scrupulously moral conduct, alongside political legitimacy and respect for the rule of law, are thus operational imperatives: they enable victory, and in their absence no amount of killing—not even genocidal brutality, as in the case of Nazi antipartisan warfare, described below—can avert defeat.”…

But yet, when influential COIN and military experts in the establishments like Kilcullen and Hashim praise the successes of Sri Lanka’s war on the Tamil people, overlooking the genocide and the concomitant political fallout in Tamil Nadu and the diaspora, and while the various HR reports produced by those NGOs and State Departments in the same establishments only engage in counting the trees without addressing the question of genocide, nationhood, and sovereignty of the Eezham Tamil nation, it is hard not to think that they are two sides of the same coin.

Review of ‘The Cage’

The Cage: The Fight for Sri Lanka and the Last Days of the Tamil Tigers In early 2009, during the closing weeks of the Sri Lankan civil war, the Tamil Tigers—a militant group that had waged a bloody, decades-long campaign to win independence for Sri Lanka’s Tamil minority—herded 300,000 Tamil civilians into a shrinking redoubt… Read more »

‘Every Time I Write, I Think of My Land’

After the first battle we lost all our possessions, including the photographs. After the battle, I located the photo studio and the owner allowed me to rummage through the rolls and I found the photos of me and my brother. These were also lost in the subsequent battles.

When I began covering the war-torn areas as a journalist, I came across several families like this. That prompted me to write about them.

Novel of Raw Human Longing

Selvadurai’s work reminds me that the contemporary novel doesn’t necessarily have to resort to thrills or high jinks in order to find its usefulness. Here, it unforgettably explores the interplay between individual intention and the tragedy of a nation’s history.

Review of ‘Sri Lanka and the Defeat of the LTTE’

Sri Lanka and the defeat of the LTTE Author : KM de Silva Publisher : Penguin, Rs299 The book looks at the rise and fall of LTTE in the context of South Asia and the India-Sri Lanka relationship, says R Hariharan The story of Velupillai Prabhakaran’s rise from the backwoods of Jaffna to build the Liberation Tigers… Read more »

Review of ‘Total Destruction of the Tigers’

The simmering idea that permeates this book, that ultra-violence is a way, albeit a bloody one, effectively to conquer insurgency, is therefore predicated on a false idea that the Tamil issue is now resolved.

Tamil Nation Library: Eelam

“…There are victims, there are executioners, and there are bystanders… Unless we wrench free from being what we like to call ‘objective’, we are closer psychologically, whether we like to admit it or not, to the executioner than to the victim…” Howard Zimm quoted by David Edwards in ‘The Difficult Art of Telling the Truth’,… Read more »

‘The Vanni’ Interactive Comic Book

Working with illustrator Lindsay Pollock, I am writing an online graphic novel which tells the story of a fictional but representative Tamil family between 2005 and 2012.

“The Tamil Eelam Liberation Struggle”

  The new book is the author’s continuation of the well-received ”Tamils in Sri Lanka – A Comprehensive History (C.300BC-C.2000 AD).”  The new book is available in both English and Tamil versions. About the Author Dr Murugar Gunasingam has written four research books including the critically acclaimed ‘Sri Lankan Tamil Nationalism: A Study of its Origins’ and… Read more »

New Book Details Sri Lanka’s ‘Habit of Denial’

It saw one of the bloodiest conflicts of this century, and yet many still only see it as a tropical paradise. While the south boasted palm-fringed beaches – a picture-perfect destination for cocktail-sipping tourists – northern Sri Lanka was a hell on earth for the Tamil minority as government troops clashed with Tiger insurgents. “Denial… Read more »

Review of ‘Gota’s War’

The cringe-worthiness continues as Chandraprema strays even further away from the plot to discuss the murder of Lasantha Wickramatunge, The Sunday Leader editor, and the unsuccessful eviction of non-resident Tamils from the city of Colombo; incidents that had nothing whatsoever to do with the course of the war. Unfortunately, Chandraprema’s strategy of distancing the Rajapakses from the more negative incidents that took place under their watch is quite transparent when he suggests that Gen Sarath Fonseka was responsible for the killing of Wickramatunge, and that Mahinda and Gotabhaya Rajapakse were nothing more than helpless bystanders. He even claims that Gotabhaya’s reasoning for the eviction of the Tamils was quite sound and based on military expediency.

Review #2: “A Fleeting Moment in My Country

Impressive social changes occurred in the Vanni under LTTE. What Gandhi, Ambedkhar, and Periyaar failed to achieve in India, the LTTE achieved in Vanni. The pervasive caste-consciousness of South Asia was eliminated. Vanni held the promise of progressive ideals for women in the society and of a government oriented toward the well being of the people. Infusing people with the spirit of struggle, it united them as one people. Indeed, it held the promise for many more social changes that would have benefited Tamils and perhaps even the whole of South Asia. This powerful example has now been destroyed. Even if an independent Tamil Eelam state is miraculously born in future, it will not bring back that hope and that promise that Vanni once held.

Impressive social changes occurred in the Vanni under LTTE. What Gandhi, Ambedkhar, and Periyaar failed to achieve in India, the LTTE achieved in Vanni. The pervasive caste-consciousness of South Asia was eliminated. Vanni held the promise of progressive ideals for women in the society and of a government oriented toward the well being of the people. Infusing people with the spirit of struggle, it united them as one people. Indeed, it held the promise for many more social changes that would have benefited Tamils and perhaps even the whole of South Asia. This powerful example has now been destroyed. Even if an independent Tamil Eelam state is miraculously born in future, it will not bring back that hope and that promise that Vanni once held.

Impressive social changes occurred in the Vanni under LTTE. What Gandhi, Ambedkhar, and Periyaar failed to achieve in India, the LTTE achieved in Vanni. The pervasive caste-consciousness of South Asia was eliminated. Vanni held the promise of progressive ideals for women in the society and of a government oriented toward the well being of the people. Infusing people with the spirit of struggle, it united them as one people. Indeed, it held the promise for many more social changes that would have benefited Tamils and perhaps even the whole of South Asia. This powerful example has now been destroyed. Even if an independent Tamil Eelam state is miraculously born in future, it will not bring back that hope and that promise that Vanni once held…

When it comes to the ideal of living free and prosperously, the Eelam Tamil-speaking people have at least learned to never say never.

Review of “A Fleeting Moment in My Country”

This is the first memoir of that momentous period that started with the heady hopes following the ceasefire, continued through the efforts to build a new society in the Vanni and areas of the East, and ended so tragically with the killing of untold tens of thousands in 2009 and the incarcerations of hundreds of thousands in internment camps.

Readers of news in English will be familiar with the narrative of 2002-2009 from the perspective of Colombo. Almost nothing has been written in English from the other side of the Omanthai checkpoint that separated government-controlled territory from that controlled by the LTTE. Those who lived there, Tamils who visited and those who read news written by Tamils are very familiar with the narrative that Malathy tells, but nobody in the rest of the world will be.

Re-reading a Saint

Karen Pechilis Prentiss was the guest of honor at the Sangam annual general meeting in November 1999.