An entertaining kaleidoscope of tales focusing on contemporary Sri Lanka.


A collection of short stories set in Sri Lanka explores the convoluted inner lives of varied characters.

In order to keep her pregnancy a secret, a rape victim must go through the further indignity of giving birth in her parents’ home assisted by her doctor father. A woman wakes up from a night of lovemaking, checks her phone, and sees a news alert about how the local at-large serial killer is reported to have a devil mask tattoo on his chest—a tattoo just like the one on the chest of the man lying in bed next to her. A mother whose son is embarrassed by their poverty attends his cricket games dressed as Eliza Doolittle: “She wore white gloves and carried an umbrella with frills that she stitched herself using old napkins. She also made sandwiches for all the other parents and kids, which people were kind enough to eat even though they were filled with rubbery cuts of meat.” In this collection of 15 interconnected stories, Tenduf-La (Panther, 2015, etc.) follows the lives of average people struggling to survive in the chaotic and colorful capital city of Colombo in Sri Lanka. The author finds a delicate balance of humorous situations and real-world darkness, as in the title story, in which a shy gym trainer becomes overly infatuated with one of his clients—to the point where he watches her outside her window at night, jealous of the love she holds for her infant daughter. Tenduf-La writes in an even-tempered prose that manages to make dramatic situations slightly cartoonish and gives casual occurrences literary weight: “Pasindu Amarasinghe is a closet homosexual with six toes on his left foot,” he writes at the beginning of the story “Everyone Has to Eat,” “but the one thing he never wants his friends to find out is that he’s been allocated a university application fee waiver.” The mix of specific details from daily life in Colombo—where sari-clad Buddhist women exist shoulder to shoulder with mob enforcers—with the universal themes of loneliness, failure, and liberation makes for a memorable and enjoyable work from this talented writer.

An entertaining kaleidoscope of tales focusing on contemporary Sri Lanka.

Pub Date: May 17, 2017

ISBN: 978-93-82616-92-4

Page Count: 163

Publisher: Pan Macmillan India

Review Posted Online: March 29, 2018

Kirkus Reviews Issue: May 15, 2018

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While a few weeks ago it seemed as if Praeger would have a two month lead over Dutton in their presentation of this Soviet best seller, both the "authorized" edition (Dutton's) and the "unauthorized" (Praeger's) will appear almost simultaneously. There has been considerable advance attention on what appears to be as much of a publishing cause celebre here as the original appearance of the book in Russia. Without entering into the scrimmage, or dismissing it as a plague on both your houses, we will limit ourselves to a few facts. Royalties from the "unauthorized" edition will go to the International Rescue Committee; Dutton with their contracted edition is adhering to copyright conventions. The Praeger edition has two translators and one of them is the translator of Doctor Zhivago Dutton's translator, Ralph Parker, has been stigmatized by Praeger as "an apologist for the Soviet regime". To the untutored eye, the Dutton translation seems a little more literary, the Praeger perhaps closer to the rather primitive style of the original. The book itself is an account of one day in the three thousand six hundred and fifty three days of the sentence to be served by a carpenter, Ivan Denisovich Shukhov. (Solzhenitsyn was a political prisoner.) From the unrelenting cold without, to the conditions within, from the bathhouse to the latrine to the cells where survival for more than two weeks is impossible, this records the hopeless facts of existence as faced by thousands who went on "living like this, with your eyes on the ground". The Dutton edition has an excellent introduction providing an orientation on the political background to its appearance in Russia by Marvin Kalb. All involved in its publication (translators, introducers, etc.) claim for it great "artistic" values which we cannot share, although there is no question of its importance as a political and human document and as significant and tangible evidence of the de-Stalinization program.

Pub Date: June 15, 1963

ISBN: 0451228146

Page Count: 181

Publisher: Praeger

Review Posted Online: Oct. 5, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: June 15, 1963

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The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

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Four men who meet as college roommates move to New York and spend the next three decades gaining renown in their professions—as an architect, painter, actor and lawyer—and struggling with demons in their intertwined personal lives.

Yanagihara (The People in the Trees, 2013) takes the still-bold leap of writing about characters who don’t share her background; in addition to being male, JB is African-American, Malcolm has a black father and white mother, Willem is white, and “Jude’s race was undetermined”—deserted at birth, he was raised in a monastery and had an unspeakably traumatic childhood that’s revealed slowly over the course of the book. Two of them are gay, one straight and one bisexual. There isn’t a single significant female character, and for a long novel, there isn’t much plot. There aren’t even many markers of what’s happening in the outside world; Jude moves to a loft in SoHo as a young man, but we don’t see the neighborhood change from gritty artists’ enclave to glitzy tourist destination. What we get instead is an intensely interior look at the friends’ psyches and relationships, and it’s utterly enthralling. The four men think about work and creativity and success and failure; they cook for each other, compete with each other and jostle for each other’s affection. JB bases his entire artistic career on painting portraits of his friends, while Malcolm takes care of them by designing their apartments and houses. When Jude, as an adult, is adopted by his favorite Harvard law professor, his friends join him for Thanksgiving in Cambridge every year. And when Willem becomes a movie star, they all bask in his glow. Eventually, the tone darkens and the story narrows to focus on Jude as the pain of his past cuts deep into his carefully constructed life.  

The phrase “tour de force” could have been invented for this audacious novel.

Pub Date: March 10, 2015

ISBN: 978-0-385-53925-8

Page Count: 720

Publisher: Doubleday

Review Posted Online: Dec. 22, 2014

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Jan. 1, 2015

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