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Cry, The Beloved Country

Rehana Sen

By Shane Joseph
Blue Denim Press, 2013, pp. 228, $20.00


‘There was fear in the air—downcast eyes, nervous scurrying—for bombs had exploded in these close confines in the past, killing disproportionate numbers of packed humanity. The heat, humidity and stench of human effluence in the enclosed stalls made me nauseous.’   Shane Joseph’s Paradise Revisited is set against the background of the recent tragic, violent events that tore Sri Lanka apart and cast a long shadow. It placed the once-sylvan, peaceful country in the dock as far as world opinion is concerned, as was reiterated forcefully by the Commonwealth Heads of Government meeting, where leaders of countries like Canada boycotted the event on the basis of Sri Lanka’s allegedly dismal Human Rights record based on the atrocities committed on the Tamil population.   In a collection of seven short stories, Joseph painfully brings alive the soul-wrenching and destructive events that almost destroyed the long-established social, cultural and political fabric of the country. This charged atmosphere is a tragic homecoming for Ralph, the narrator of ‘Survivor’, returning from his new home in Canada to search for his long-lost, facially-deformed uncle: ‘The city of Colombo was dirtier and more congested than I had ever seen it......armed policemen at regular intervals and the frequent military check-points were new and disquieting. I had to remind myself that this was a country at war with itself.’ In, ‘Rebels of Lost Causes’, a tale of an interracial romance that floundered on the obstacles of new suspicions and new divisions, the political situation is stressed: ‘ The Marxist revolutionary organization, the JVP, had reared its ugly head again by attempted assassinations of politicians, some successfully executed. The Indian Peace Keeping troops had landed in the north to fight the Tamil rebels, but were causing more damage than good and there were heavy rumours that the central government would fall.’ With essential services almost nonexistent, shortages of every kind, including being ‘out of stock’ of basic medicines. ‘They should not be banning drugs made in India just because we asked their troops to support us’, bemoans Shamini, the dedicated young Sinhala doctor. ‘This country is at war, what do you expect’, retorts her companion Jamie.   In this tense atmosphere, young men like Sena, the Tamilian trusted home-help of a Burgher family, is sucked into the whirlwind of acerbic revenge and violence. He, irrationally, eschews the opportunity provided by the Bernard family to escape to a new, ...

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