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A Passage North

by Anuk Arudpragasam

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingConversations / Mentions
317881,168 (3.7)1 / 63
"A young man journeys into Sri Lanka's formerly war-torn north, and into a country's soul, in this searing novel of love and the legacy of war from the award-winning author of The Story of a Brief Marriage. "The closest we seem to get to the present are those brief moments we stop to consider the spaces our bodies are occupying, the warmth of the sheets in which we wake, the scratched surface of the window on a train taking us somewhere else..." A Passage North begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan, newly returned to Colombo, that his grandmother's caretaker, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances--found at the bottom of the village well, her neck broken. The news coincides with the arrival of an email from Anjum, a woman with whom he had a brief but passionate relationship in Delhi a few years before, bringing with it the stirring of old memories and desires. As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn northern province for the funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the soul of a country. At once a meditation on love and longing, and an incisive account of the impact of Sri Lanka's civil war, this procession to a pyre "at the end of the earth" shines a light on the distances we bridge in ourselves and those we love, and the indelible imprints of an island's past. Anuk Arudpragasam's masterful novel is an effigy for the missing and the dead, and a vivid search for meaning, even amid tragedy"--… (more)
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» See also 63 mentions

English (6)  Dutch (2)  All languages (8)
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
Rating: 4/5

TW: Death, PTSD

A book that takes you through a journey of reflecting upon life and accepting the process of death, A PASSAGE NORTH, is one of the most indulging piece of fiction I have read this year.

Devoid of dialogue with sentences that last pages, Anuk Arudpragasam managed to deliver topics that felt so personal and hit me with waves of nostalgia more than once. The book, divided into 3 sections - Message, Journey and Burning begins with the MC, Krishan, receiving the news of demise of his grandmother's care-taker, Rani over a phone call.

What follows is a trip to the ever-so philosophical mind of Krishan where he recollects, introspects and comes to terms with several aspects of his past and the death of Rani.

Mundane things such as taking a walk, smoking a cigarette, travelling on a train are explained in such detail that you will be transported to the said circumstances and will not be able to help but relate with them.

The MC reflects on his previous relationship with Anjum, a queer woman from Bangalore, his train journey with her, his grand mother's daily routine and past few years of her life, the conversations he has had with Rani regarding the loss she has faced in the war and it's impact on her mental health and many more while taking a train to attend Rani's funeral.

The detail in which the MC remembers little moments he had shared with his then girlfriend and a few with his grand-mother on multiple instances in the book, reiterates how impactful these little moments are and how such memories have a silent power to shape us.

I related so much to how he processed Rani's death, having gone through a similar process with the death of my grand father.

It was also interesting to learn about the struggle for freedom in Sri Lanka, their Hindu funeral rituals and how similar they are to that of India.

Overall, the book encapsulated a lot of emotions and thoughts that will stay imbibed in your mind for a while. A great book to read and definitely a contender for the short-list!

I am extremely thankful to the author for referencing the stories and poems that he had explained in such detail with respect to how the MC had perceived it in the acknowledgements. It will be helpful in a journey to find, read and interpret those stories with our own minds. ( )
  AnrMarri | Aug 1, 2023 |
This is a beautifully written, introspective book that follows the thoughts of protagonist Krishan. It is set in Sri Lanka and contains only the barest thread of a plot. His grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died after traveling back to her home in northern Sri Lanka. Krishan journeys by train from Colombo to attend the funeral. Rani has experienced multiple tragedies in her life, including the violent deaths of two sons in the country’s civil war. As Krishan travels, he remembers people and events that have had a lasting impact on him and the people he loves.

Krishan’s thoughts address many aspects of life, such as love, loss, grief, aging, death, desire, yearning, and memory. He recalls the violence that changed so many lives. His thoughts return regularly to three women: his mother, grandmother, and his first love. He thinks about the war and its lingering impact a decade later. It is a philosophical book that examines the aftermath of the country’s civil war and how we spend our time on this earth.

I am amazed at the author’s ability to capture nuances, subtleties, and interpretations of what is seen, heard, and felt. Krishan’s thoughts flow from one topic to the next, as thoughts tend to do. I felt totally immersed in this story. I stopped several times just to contemplate. It is not one to rush through. I will definitely re-read this novel and can envision it winning literary prizes.

“Waking up each morning we follow by circuitous routes the thread of habit, out of our homes, into the world, and back to our beds at night, move unseeingly through familiar paths, one day giving way to another and one week to the next, so that when in the midst of this daydream something happens and the thread is finally cut, when, in a moment of strong desire or unexpected loss, the rhythms of life are interrupted, we look around and are quietly surprised to see that the world is vaster than we thought.”

The audio book is narrated by Neil Shah. His narration is quiet, almost somber, and fits the content. I listened to it twice and feel audio is a great vehicle for digesting the lengthy, stream-of-consciousness style sentences.
( )
  Castlelass | Oct 30, 2022 |
A Passage North, Anuk Arludpragasam, author; Neil Shah, narrator
This most definitely is Krishan’s story, and although it is utterly exhausting in its description and detail, it is also so beautifully written, in a soft voice that neither raises nor lowers one’s blood pressure, that it rolls out without creating any anxiety . As Krishan’s life is examined, as we look through the window of his feelings and examine his behavior, the strife and destruction of war also quietly enter the picture; still, even when that is told, the stress level does not rise; the prose smoothly rolls out, evenly and thoughtfully as it expresses the temperament of its main character.
Told like one long reminiscence, Krishan and Sri Lanka come to life. As we learn about Krishan, we go from his time as a professor in India to the war torn north of his country, Sri Lanka, where Tamils largely lived. Using his pen, the author has done a yeoman’s job of presenting the picture of his world, with all of its warts and foibles in a country rocked by civil war for decades. Although Krishan is Tamil, he remained outside the country, in India, during the war with the Sinhalese, who are in the majority. He escaped from the horrors with its brutality and destruction, from the awful emotional crises of those subjected to the violence and the fear, from the pain of the loss of loved ones, property and way of life. Not all could recover from such total devastation, but Krishan is determined to move on as he explores and learns more about what took place and how it affected others, as he explores his life and life’s raison d’être.
As Krishan searches for answers, complex ideas are revealed. How do we approach life, death, and aging? What is our purpose? Getting old involves great loss. He had not realized the effect of it on his grandmother, but as her strength, power and mobility diminish, he is forced to face mortality. How does one deal with the shadow of utter loneliness which can be devastating? How do we approach war and peace if we are removed from the actual violence? What do we ultimately want if not freedom and independence? Is that what we are all searching for as we take different paths? In a story about Sri Lanka, the author has managed to also examine human existence everywhere. He includes current themes like the lgbtq lifestyles, politics, the environment, women’s rights and more without causing any conflict or confusion, so light is his nonjudgmental touch
The book is not exciting, quite the contrary, it is slow moving and not uplifting, but is also so alive with important explanations and revelations, one cannot put it down. The reader is moved to learn more about the customs, the culture and the history, as without expending too much energy, the civil war and its aftermath are illuminated.
The juxtaposition of each word in every sentence was so poetic and eloquent that, at times, I lost sight of the story because of the beauty of the expression. Not one word was wasted. Through Appamma and Rani we learn about loneliness and different kinds of loss, about life and death, the life of a plant the decay of the body and mind. Through Anjun and Krishan we learn about what we search for and how we go about it, how we choose our lifestyles and partners. We are all searching for something, for some purpose.
As if the narrator is watching Krishan’s life on a screen, he relates everything without undue emotion, just refers to facts and events as they come up, sometimes moving back and forth in time. Adding to this, the actual reader of the audio book did a masterful job with this novel, never interjecting himself into the narrative, but rather reading it as if he was viewing it all take place with us. As he narrates the story of Krishan’s feelings and memories to the reader, like the peaceful meandering of a river, this story is told, often quoting from legends and poems that reveal the story of others searching for answers, answers that do not always satisfy the seekers. Float on with these stories and be enlightened. I do not think you will be sorry, for in the end, the experience is quite exhilarating. ( )
  thewanderingjew | Dec 5, 2021 |
54. A Passage North by Anuk Arudpragasam
reader: Neil Shah
published: 2021
format: 9:15 audible audiobook (304-pages in hardcover)
acquired: October 26
listened: Oct 26 – Nov 7
rating: 4 (maybe 4 plus)
locations: Sri Lanka & parts in Delhi and Bombay, India.
about the author: Tamil author born in 1988 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. Attended Stanford University and received a PhD in philosophy at Columbia University in 2019.

When this book opens and Krishan learns about the death of his grandmother's caretaker, I assumed he was going to focus on his grandmother and his family. But he then gets side tracked and this goes on and on. It took me a little while to realize these sidetracks were the book. And it also took me a while to realize that this caretaker, Rani, was the key subject - a representative of the tragedy of the Sri Lanka civil war.

My fifth audiobook from the Booker longlist, this is all in the head of Krishan, a Tamil from Sri Lanka who experienced the civil war only from a distance. His passage north is to Rani's funeral. Rani, we learn, lost two of her three children to the civil war, both her boys, one on the last day of the war, a final shelling. She was broken, and never could recover. As Krishan travels, he reflects... on the Tamil loss, the war‘s horrors, and on his own life, all with some philosophical touches. Rani's funeral serves as a kind of focal point. The text is really fine, although it demands your full attention, so is a little challenging on audio. But it's carefully worded, meaningful and readable. I put this on the high end of 4 stars. I enjoyed it.

2021
https://www.librarything.com/topic/333774#7653632 ( )
  dchaikin | Nov 13, 2021 |
I thought all the writers who could write long, beautiful, luscious prose were...well, dead. (I'm looking at you, Anita Brookner.) But this book is absolutely beautifully written like nothing I've read from other writers recently. Not much plot but a young man is mulling over his life and the war in Sri Lanka as he walks, and later takes a train across the country. It's heartbreaking learning about how the country was devastated by war but the writing is the star here. Just so beautiful. Booker shortlist. ( )
1 vote brenzi | Oct 24, 2021 |
Showing 1-5 of 6 (next | show all)
It can take just two novels to establish a writer as one of the most individual minds of their generation. Anuk Arudpragasam’s award-winning debut, 'The Story of a Brief Marriage' (2016), heralded him as an author who could tackle big subjects — in this case, the wrenching civil war that tore Sri Lanka apart for two and a half decades — with a striking gift for meditative philosophy. With his new novel, a revelatory exploration of the aftermath of war, Arudpragasam cements his reputation.
added by kidzdoc | editFinancial Times, Nilanjana Roy (pay site) (Jul 2, 2021)
 

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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Arudpragasam, Anukprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Shah, NeilNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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The present, we assume, is eternally before us, one of the few things in life from which we cannot be parted.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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"A young man journeys into Sri Lanka's formerly war-torn north, and into a country's soul, in this searing novel of love and the legacy of war from the award-winning author of The Story of a Brief Marriage. "The closest we seem to get to the present are those brief moments we stop to consider the spaces our bodies are occupying, the warmth of the sheets in which we wake, the scratched surface of the window on a train taking us somewhere else..." A Passage North begins with a message: a telephone call informing Krishan, newly returned to Colombo, that his grandmother's caretaker, Rani, has died in unexpected circumstances--found at the bottom of the village well, her neck broken. The news coincides with the arrival of an email from Anjum, a woman with whom he had a brief but passionate relationship in Delhi a few years before, bringing with it the stirring of old memories and desires. As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn northern province for the funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the soul of a country. At once a meditation on love and longing, and an incisive account of the impact of Sri Lanka's civil war, this procession to a pyre "at the end of the earth" shines a light on the distances we bridge in ourselves and those we love, and the indelible imprints of an island's past. Anuk Arudpragasam's masterful novel is an effigy for the missing and the dead, and a vivid search for meaning, even amid tragedy"--

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A Passage North begins with a message from out of the blue: a telephone call informing Krishan that his grandmother’s caretaker, Rani, has died under unexpected circumstances—found at the bottom of a well in her village in the north, her neck broken by the fall. The news arrives on the heels of an email from Anjum, an impassioned yet aloof activist Krishnan fell in love with years before while living in Delhi, stirring old memories and desires from a world he left behind.

As Krishan makes the long journey by train from Colombo into the war-torn Northern Province for Rani’s funeral, so begins an astonishing passage into the innermost reaches of a country. At once a powerful meditation on absence and longing, as well as an unsparing account of the legacy of Sri Lanka’s thirty-year civil war, this procession to a pyre “at the end of the earth” lays bare the imprints of an island’s past, the unattainable distances between who we are and what we seek.

Written with precision and grace, Anuk Arudpragasam’s masterful novel is an attempt to come to terms with life in the wake of devastation, and a poignant memorial for those lost and those still living.
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