Novelist Tania James talks rogue elephants, India and conservation

Tania JamesA rogue elephant named the Gravedigger is the main narrator of “The Tusk That Did the Damage” (Alfred A. Knopf: 240 pp., $24.95), Tania James’ imaginative novel exploring the ivory trade in the forests of south India. Orphaned at birth by a poacher, the Gravedigger seeks revenge for his mother’s death, killing humans he encounters in his attacks and then tenderly burying them.

James, author of the acclaimed “Aerogrammes” and “Atlas of Unknowns,” discovered the intriguing subject of her second novel after reading a book describing a real-life man-killing elephant, driven by deforestation to hunger and madness. Delving into further research, she discovered two other voices: Manu, the younger brother of poacher Jayan, and Emma, a 23-year-old documentary filmmaker, whose narration of the novel weaves in with those of the Gravedigger.

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