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When Memory Dies [Paperback]

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Item description for When Memory Dies by Ambalavaner Sivanandan...

This novel is a powerful three-generational saga of a Sri Lankan family's search for coherence and continuity in a country broken by colonial occupation and riven by ethnic wars.The character Saha looks fororder in a return to traditional values; Rajanis ona quest for modernity that takes him to the mother country; and Vijay is in a fight for socialism that ends in terror. Through the travail of their lives emerges the possibility of another future.

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Item Specifications...

Pages   411
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 1.5" Width: 5" Height: 7.75"
Weight:   0.96 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 1, 2008
Publisher   Arcadia Books
ISBN  1905147597  
ISBN13  9781905147595  

Availability  0 units.

More About Ambalavaner Sivanandan

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! A. Sivanandan is the founder and editor of "Race & Class" and the director of the Institute of Race Relations in London. He is the author of "Communities of Resistance," "A Different Hunger," and "Where the Dance Is,"

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Product Categories

1Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General > Contemporary
2Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > General
3Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Genre Fiction > Family Saga
4Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > Short Stories > British
5Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > British > Contemporary
6Books > Subjects > Literature & Fiction > World Literature > Indian

Reviews - What do customers think about When Memory Dies?

When Memory Dies  Aug 4, 2003
Sivanandan's book is a vivid telling of three generations of a Sri Lankan Tamil family and of the disintegration of ethnic harmony on the island. Having fled Sri Lanka after the 1956 riots Sivanandan's novel is remarkably even-handed and captures the humanity on both sides. Sri Lanka's post-colonial history is one of failed expectations and avoidable disasters. Sivanandan thoughtfully sketches the path to Sri Lanka's civil war and the painful breakdown in relations between the Sinhalese and the Tamils. The tragedy of the estrangement between some of the key Sinhalese and Tamil characters in the novel is all the more poignant considering that Sinhalese nationalism and Tamil Eelam nationalism are painfully intertwined. I wonder if the title "When Memory Dies" is an allusion to the fact that Sinhala-Tamil enmity in Sri Lanka is less than a hundred years old and was preceded by about 2500 years when ethnicity did not matter?
A good book to describe how socialists wreck poor countries  May 2, 2000
A. Sivanandan left Sri Lanka in the aftermath of the '56 riots. His descriptions of the environment of Sri Lanka in the book after that tragedy are thus largely based on speculation and tales spun by others like him. The story is an attempt to give a history of Sri Lanka in the twentieth century from a socialist's point of view. He basically tells the reader that socialism was corrupted by Sinhala politics (he gives absolutely no attention to Tamil ethnic politics, which played at least an equal role in the creation of tensions) and 'greed.' Perhaps he has not considered that socialism is such a flawed philosophy because it is so easy to subvert- that much is obvious to any student of modern Sri Lankan history. Book Three is full of misperceptions and speculation- for example, he presents Sinhala people as being fully cognizant of the problems created by Sinhala nationalism (nothing is farther from the truth- few people, Tamil or Sinhala had any idea the politics of the day would lead to a civil war). His hero in Book Three, Vijay (an erstwhile hybrid- a Sinhala who had been "blessed" with some Tamil upbringing-) is a character paralyzed with ignorance and uncertainty. He can barely argue against his own grade-school students, who are horrible stereotypes of Sinhalas "brainwashed" by ethnic nationalism. The weak arguments he does present are those used by current Eelamists- they are hardly accepted by many, if not most Sri Lankans. Sivanandan's point of the story seems to be that ignorance of history leads to loss of identity. I agree- I would advise him and people like him to treat history seriously, not as a diversion to earn royalties.

note: this review was written by an actual Sri Lankan

Historical fiction at a high level of sophistication.  Jul 1, 1999
I have used this book as an introduction to the contemporary political and cultural history of Sri Lanka for college students who will be studying on the island for the academic year. In some ways, it is a somewhat cynical rendering of the evolution of the ethnic conflict in Sri Lanka. That is, it is difficult to come away from reading it with much of a sense of hope for the current political situation. But it is precisely the evocation of hopelessness that makes Sivanandan's compelling novel realistic, as unfortunate as that sounds. Idealism, indeed, seems to have little space in Sri Lanka these days. There is much in this novel that educates its readers to the nature of ethnic conflict, class consciousness, caste, family, religion and political identity. I found it a tour de force, a remarkable novel.
A century of racial harmony and discord in Sri Lanka  Oct 24, 1998
The writer takes us through twentieth century Sri Lanka ( or Ceylon as it was known ) through three generations of a Tamil family. From the struggle for independence both from poverty and the British through to the birth of the struggle for Eelam in the North, the writer has not held back or favoured any one faction in particular but told it like it is. Definitely one of the best books I have ever read. The narrative is fast paced, the descriptions vivid yet not overdone, the language is simple and not flowery but the overall effect is engrossing.

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