Currently reading The Road from Elephant Pass over my morning coffee. At 10 minutes max perday it has become a delightful morning ritual (The Economist is the toilet reading these days). I’ve yet to get to the middle of the book yet though it is obvious to me that the author is a bloody writer.
Narratively the book is quite simple. Its the classic two enemies on a journey who have to work together to survive. Draped over this simple yet sturdy premise is a wonderful delicate multi layered lattice of what I will crudely call “subtext”. All of them involving the many contradictions of Sri Lankan life.
A few of the most apparent ones are
- Descriptions of the attack on the Elephant pass defences which have echoes of David Blacker’s recollections of fighting in the north (possibly the only one written by a veteran who wasn’t an officer.).
- Glimpses of life under the LTTE
- Brutally blunt discussions about Sri Lanka’s ethnic relations (revealed in the discussion between the two characters)
- The backstories of the two protagonists are convincing enough with enough room left for the reader to fill in the details with their prejudices
- Believable stuff about jungle survival (not that I would know anything to nitpick errors in the details)
- A lovingly selected depictions of bird and animal life of Sri Lanka’s dry zone – particularly Wilpattu National Park.
The last point poignant as the author of the book was killed by a land mine in the very wildlife reserve he so loving describes. Most like a consequence of the war. I’ll leave you to sort out the layers of tragedy and irony that marinate life in Sri Lankan.
I won’t go on and on since this is not a book review. Just an attempt at a refined squeal of delight on finding a good read.
Currently the two protagonists are camped out in Wilpathu where they just rudely grabbed food from a Leopard. There’s still a long way to to the last page.