Christopher Ondaatje

Courting trouble

Desmond de Silva was born in the colony of Ceylon in the early months of the second world war, the only son of a barrister. After the Japanese entered the war in 1941, Ceylon was in the front line and it faced an onslaught. Winston Churchill appointed Lord Mountbatten as Supreme Allied Commander South East

Wave, by Sonali Deraniyagala – review

Sonali Deraniyagala’s horrific book Wave, about her experience in and after the 26 December 2004 tsunami that struck the south-east coast of Sri Lanka, is one of the most moving memoirs I have ever read. All year round, day and night, if you looked down that long two-mile line of sea and sand, you would

The life of the heart

Love’s Civil War: Elizabeth Bowen and Charles Ritchie, Letters and Diaries from the Love Affair of a Lifetime edited by Victoria Glendinning, with Judith Roberts It is probable that the Anglo-Irish writer Elizabeth Bowen (1899-1973) was a virgin ten years after her marriage to Alan Cameron, the retired Secretary to the Central Council of School

The stuff of legends

There have been many biographies of Sir Richard Burton, the renowned and enigmatic Victorian explorer, ethnologist, archaeologist, author, translator, and one of the greatest linguists of his era. Curiously, however, there have been no major novels based on Burton’s extraordinary life. Iliya Troyanov, in a remarkable German novel Der Weltensammler, has corrected this omission. The

Modern fusion architecture

Although there have been many architectural books featuring the works of Geoffrey Bawa, the Sri Lankan born architect, most notably a first monograph authored by David Robson a year before Bawa died in 2003, a second book, Beyond Bawa, also by Robson, is a biographical and artistic revelation. What is surprising and different about this

Dear, unhappy isle

Roma Tearne’s first novel of love and war is set almost entirely in the strife-torn island of Sri Lanka, and sweeps away only in its final pages to Venice and to London. It is a heart-rending story of an expatriate who returns to his homeland only to find himself immersed in a poisonous civil war