There was something about twilight that heightened his anxiety, which brought it to the surface of his consciousness and made it palpable, as though with the gradual disappearance of the horizon the last hopes and promises of the day too were disappearing from view, another day coming and going with nothing to show for itself.
A Passage North is an exquisite novel from Sri Lankan Tamil novelist Anuk Arudpragasam. The novel recounts the complex thoughts of Krishan as he travels from Colombo to a village in northern Sri Lanka to attend the funeral of Rani, his grandmother’s former caretaker.
Upon receiving the news of Rani’s death, Krishan has been dejected and the email from his ex set him in a great turmoil. As he takes a long train ride to the northern province, he recollects his thoughts on various matters in his life. His grandmother’s deteriorating health and her stubbornness, Rani’s tragic past haunted by the aftermath of the Civil War and her relationship with Krishan’s grandmother as well as his complicated relationship with his former lover, Anjum are cascaded through his recollections along with notable literature works and philosophy.
A Passage North is indeed a collections of Krishan’s introspections and contemplations intertwined with various scars of the country’s civil war left on its survivors. Written in elongated sentences with sophisticated proses, it is equally challenging and mesmerising to read this novel. As there is absolutely no dialogue in entire book, the endless train of thought is never interrupted but when necessary, diverted into a different path eloquently. Most of the time, these thoughts are like a string of magnetic beads linked to one another loosely yet never segregated which perfectly depict the profuse recollections and emotions pass through the mind of the protagonist.
With meticulously refined (and most of the time lyrical) narrative, the writer tackles on trauma and pain, memories and desire, as well as oppression and sexism through the narrator’s relationships with other characters and their background. The voice of Tamil diaspora is heard in a mixture of their struggles, guilts and pains which still remain with them. Throughout the book, the ingenuity of Anuk Arudpragasam’s storytelling can be seen. A very well deserving of 2021 Booker Prize shortlist indeed for this literary masterpiece.