Aug 2018 The Story of a Brief Marriage




The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam

Book Group 1 




The title of this tale brings assorted images and questions to mind: a young couple perhaps? (An affair and poof, it’s over?)  A middle-aged couple decide to marry, but their union is upended by disease (or even worse…)? In actuality, The Story of a Brief Marriage chronicles, for all of twenty-four hours, the tale of two young people whose misfortune brings them to the same refugee camp in northern Sri Lanka toward the end of the recent civil war. The girl’s father, fearful of what might become of his daughter if she remains unattached there, asks a stranger if he’d consider marrying her. The two spend but one night together … This is not so much a story of love, but a meditation on it. It is certainly a tale of contrasts. It is a story that illuminates the horrors of war but through the day-to-day activities that somehow continue in such conditions. These are examined in meticulous, yet tender detail.


While I doubt anyone in our club will be rushing out to purchase young Arudpragasam’s second novel (if, indeed, he decides to write one), most of us felt it was worth the read. Leslie brought up his exquisite use of language; descriptions of both feeling (and more poignantly, the lack thereof) were riveting even if, at times, off-putting. The fact that the author studied philosophy is no surprise: some of us were impressed by his ability to dissect a moment into countless, small sub-moments – and others of us found it wearying. There was active conversation over the “whys” of such a book: does he write to make a political point – or simply to examine what a day in the lives of such desperate people might look like?  Either way, with so few Sri Lankan authors’ works translated into English, it was an unusual read for most of us!



Tracy Meyer