Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka, earlier known as Ceylon, the island famous for its tea, located south of India has a history so complex as to imitate a condensed legend of the world itself. John Gimlette, an English travel writer and lawyer has immersed himself in the saga of the events that have shaped the island. Filled with overwhelming detail, rich in anecdote, colorful descriptions, historical details, the author and the local guides carry him across the country as he recounts the cultural clashes that have shaped this society. Starting in the dizzying capital of Colombo, he wanders out to the middle and four corners of the country, encountering crocodiles, elephants, pearl divers, cinnamon forests, and the diverse assortment of natives and their dilemmas. With biting wit, he reviews the ancient founding realms with its incipient corrosive corruption and ongoing clashes, only to be succeeded by the Portuguese tyranny, then the Dutch domination, continued with the British and then the Japanese invasion. Appallingly, the most recent tragic account of the longest civil war between the Tamil and the Sinhalese is exposed and examined.
This is not an easy book to read for those unfamiliar with the history of the region as the parts juggle about so that frequently the reader drowns in the disconnected details. Still it is an introduction to an exotic region that has been isolated for so long.