Posts Categorized: Book Reviews

‘In a Time of Burning’

Words imply literacy, knowledge and awareness; words preserve and pass on history; words communicate experience and so create understanding… In this tragic and terrible situation, the creative energy of Tamils also finds expression – testimony or resistance – in Art; more precisely, in fiction, autobiography, poetry, song, painting and film.

Book Review: The Moon in the Water

by Ameena Hussein So there is this hangup of mine. I don’t like reading books that everyone is raving about at the time it comes out. So despite many people telling me I must read this book, I took my time and I am glad I did or else I might feel I was influenced… Read more »

Book Review: KM De Silva

In examining the seeds of separatism in this part, Prof de Silva builds a well-argued case against Tamil’s three basic grievances — university admissions policy, language policy and state sector employment — to conclude they are based on false premises. But the analysis of ‘false premises’ misses the history’s glaring footnote — the kernel of truth in the Tamil argument — that enabled Tamil insurgency to hold out against Sri Lanka’s might for over 25 years. The growth of LTTE was the logical consequence of Sinhala polity’s failure to convince the Tamils of the rationale of its actions. Though his analysis is from a Sinhala rather than Sri Lankan perspective, it gives the majority Sinhala’s reasoning that influenced the country’s political responses to the ethnic question.

Book Review: Malaravan

by Charles Ponnuthurai Sarvan, South Asia Analysis Group, Delhi, September 3, 2013 Though some diaries are written with publication in mind, the tendency is to think of them as being private. Ben Bavinck wrote his Sri Lanka diary in Dutch: see, Sarvan, online edition of the Sunday Leader, Colombo, 6 November 2011. It is a dialogue… Read more »

When Counterinsurgency Wins

by Ahmed S. Hashim, University of Pennsylvania Press, May, 2013 280 pages | 6 x 9 | 7 illus. Cloth 2013 | ISBN 978-0-8122-4452-6 | $59.95s | £39.00 | Add to cart Ebook Jul 2013 | ISBN 978-0-8122-0648-7 | $59.95s | £39.00 | About | Add to cart View table of contents “An in-depth, timely, and nuanced study of the… Read more »

Collateral Damage

At the time of the crackdown in East Pakistan, President Nixon and his national security adviser, Henry Kissinger, were trying to establish relations with the People’s Republic of China…Yahya, its military leader, became Nixon’s secret liaison with the Chinese leader Zhou Enlai. Yahya helped lay the groundwork for the visits to China by Kissinger and then Nixon….

With the White House averting its eyes, the largely Muslim Pakistani Army killed at least 300,000 Bengalis, most of them Hindus, and forced 10 million to flee to India. Bass lays out his indictment of the White House: Nixon and Kissinger spurned the cables, written by their own diplomats in Dacca (the capital of East Pakistan), that said West Pakistan was guilty of carrying out widespread massacres. Archer Blood, the counsel general in Dacca, sent an angry cable that detailed the atrocities and used the word “genocide.” The men in the White House, however, not only refused to condemn Yahya — in public or private — but they also declined to withhold American arms, ammunition and spare parts that kept Pakistan’s military machine humming.

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 »