Penguin Books India will be publishing award-winning author and journalist Samanth Subramanian’s new book, This Divided Island: Stories from the Sri Lanka War on 10th July.

From the acclaimed author of Following Fish, unforgettable human stories from a deeply scarred country, still hot from three decades of civil war


-Driven by curiosity about the scars and legacies of a long war, Subramanian moved to Sri Lanka in 2011. Over the next year, he travelled across the island, and through Sri Lankan communities living overseas, talking to hundreds of people about how their lives were twisted out of shape by the war.

– In the course of his research, Subramanian discovered what a suffocating and dangerous place Sri Lanka has become after the end of the war in 2009. Writers, journalists and human rights activists work within a shell of fear. Minorities worry constantly about their safety. People mysteriously disappear, never to be seen again.

– This Divided Island tracks the rise of militant Buddhism, driven by monk politicians who hold extraordinary, extreme opinions.

– Subramanian examines how war has seeped into every aspect of life in Sri Lanka, altering its very landscape; how people reconcile themselves to violence; how power and history affect each other; and how the war’s embers continue to smoulder and divide the island – embers that, he believes, can ignite into violence all over again.

In the summer of 2009, the leader of the dreaded Tamil Tiger guerrillas was killed, bringing to a bloody end the stubborn and complicated civil war in Sri Lanka. For nearly thirty years, the war’s fingers had reached everywhere: into the bustle of Colombo, the Buddhist monasteries scattered across the island, the soft hills of central Sri Lanka, the curves of the eastern coast near Batticaloa and Trincomalee, and the stark, hot north. With its genius for brutality, the war left few places, and fewer people, untouched.

What happens to the texture of life in a country that endures such bitter conflict? What happens to the country’s soul? Samanth Subramanian gives us an extraordinary account of the Sri Lankan war and the lives it changed. Taking us to the ghosts of summers past, and to other battles from other times, he draws out the story of Sri Lanka today—an exhausted, disturbed society, still hot from the embers of the war. Through travels and conversations, he examines how people reconcile themselves to violence, how religion and state conspire, how the powerful become cruel, and how victory can be put to the task of reshaping memory and burying histories. 

This Divided Island is a harrowing and humane investigation of a country still inflamed.