More travelogue than political polemic, the author’s second book is a haunting revisiting of the Sri Lankan civil war, says Shehan Karunatilaka in The Mint

srilankaConsidering the amount of ink spilled in its name, the Sri Lankan post-war story deserves a subgenre of its own. From that moment in May 2009, when the bloodied head of Tiger boss Velupillai Prabhakaran was hung on the masthead of every newspaper in the land, words have accumulated to describe the island’s post-war experience. It is a shame that none of those words has been “peace”.

Divergent reports of how the north was won have consumed miles of column inches, galaxies of pixels and several works of fiction and reportage. The official story as seen in C.A. Chandraprema’s Gota’s War denies that the government shelled its people, executed its enemies in cold blood, denies that it continues to abduct and torture, and to sponsor the suppression of minorities.

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shehan_KHow does a reader ‘discover’ an author/book? Today digital technology is rapidly becoming a unifying factor in the coming together of print and electronic forms of publishing. It is also responsible for the “discoverability” of a book. Traditional forms of discovery – curation in a brick-and-mortar bookstore, word-of-mouth recommendations, libraries, second hand bookstores, gifts, book reviews in newspapers and magazines and book clubs continue to be significant. Literary prizes too are important.