Under my byline

Gorilla, the Tiger

Posted in Books by Rrishi on 8 April 2008

A novel that draws upon a life lived in the shadow of the LTTE

Gorilla
Shobasakthi
Trans. Anushiya Sivanarayanan
Random House
xvi + 168

Washing dishes in restaurants and stacking shelves in supermarkets, Shobasakthi earns enough to support himself in exile. Born in a fishing village in northern Sri Lanka, he now lives in Paris, France, as a political refugee and writer.

Anthony Jesuthasan (the name Shobasakthi’s parents gave him) joined the Tamil Tigers as a teenager, like so many of his peers. Although he was trained to fight, Shobasakthi worked in the LTTE’s propaganda and recruitment groups — often staging street-theatre dramas.

Eventually, however, he fell foul of the Tigers and was expelled from the LTTE. Now with enemies on both sides, and viewed as a traitor by his own people, Shobasakthi had little option but to flee the country. “The war destroyed my village,” he says. “The Sri Lankan navy has now turned the whole village into a massive navy base. My parents live in India as refugees. My siblings live in Europe as refugees.”

In Gorilla, his first novel, Shobasakthi describes a life similar in some respects to his own, that of teenager Rocky Raj, whose father is a local thug known as Gorilla. Partly to get away from his father, the boy joins the Tigers — where he’s given the movement name of Gorilla. Young Gorilla gets himself thrown out of the LTTE for disobedience, but not before being tortured. He, too, ends up living exile life in Paris.

The book has an unusual structure, and retains some of the flavour of the original Tamil. There is brutality, but the characters are memorable and the story cleverly jump-cut like a film — right up to the somewhat peculiar ending.

(Read an interview with Shobasakthi.)

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