The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam is a moving and intimate portrait of a man caught up in Sri Lanka’s civil war. Set in and around a refugee camp, this debut novel offers a peek into just a few short days of Dinesh’s life. Arudpragasm delves deep into this one man’s thought process, drawing it out in eloquent and elegant prose. Moments that take but a few seconds traverse multiple pages, yet the book does not feel like it drags on.
The prose captures the disrupted mindsets of one whose life has been completely overturned by war–one of moving from camp to camp and avoiding being drafting. And then the confusions and small joys and larger anxieties of entering into marriage with a stranger. As Dinesh and Ganga’s relationship slowly, sometimes excruciatingly unfolds, the search for human connection is deftly explored and exposed.
It was as though he’d been moving around, all this time, refusing to register the world outside him, and refusing to let it have any effect on him, so that having been caught off guard by the unexpected proposal, forced to wake up suddenly after how many months of being like this he didn’t know, he was seeing his situation for the very first time now, keenly aware of the multitudes of people around him, and of himself as he navigated uncertainly through the camp.
The reader quickly becomes enraptured by Dinesh’s thoughts. He is one who speaks little and spoken words are not punctuated by quotes. Instead, we languish in his flashbacks and his work to forge a connection with Ganga. Throughout, the author explores bigger philosophical questions, ever more present for Dinesh given the fragility of his situation and his very existence–a young man alive in the middle of a war that has caught up his family, her family, and most of those he once knew. Elegantly written, The Story of a Brief Marriage is thought-provoking and riveting to its end.