Monday, November 28, 2005
There's a special magic about hearing an author read his own words and it was a real treat to listen to Romesh Gunasekera read from Reef both at Silverfish and at the British Council reception Friday night.
It's a book of "memory and imagination ... how you work out who you are and why you're there ..." (Romesh's words) and the characters have taken up residence in my head.
The story is a long flashback, narrated by a Sri Lankan restauranteur living in London after a late night encounter with a compatriot at a petrol station. Triton recalls his life as a houseboy in the employ of Mr. Salgado, an aristocratic dilettante, and how he gradually takes over the running of the household. Triton observes and puzzles over Salgado's relationship with the unconventional Nili, and does his best to lubricate the friendship with wonderous offerings of food (the love cake with extra eggs and freshest butter, the beautiful parrot fish, and of course the Christmas turkey).
It's a novel of great charm and beauty.
Another book of Romesh's that I've greatly enjoyed is Monkfish Moon, his collection of short fiction set between Britain and Sri Lanka. My favourite story is Batik, about a Sri Lankan couple living in London in an apartment they have carefully and lovingly renovated together. But now the news of atrocities committed at home threatens to tear their relationship apart. As in Reef, there's a sense of safety lost, a paradise despoiled.
Truth is held in the smallest of details - the gory dissection of the chicken for dinner, the bruise coloured door, the shards of a shattered cup.
A tiny gem but totally satisfying.
Leon wrote about the Friday night reception at British Council director's place. Since we don't have photos, we have blog memories, Leon.