The Story of a Brief Marriage by Anuk Arudpragasam is not only a story but more than that. It is that reality of life that (by God’s grace) many of us have never experienced. It is also that reality facing a big section of this world today.
The Story of a Brief Marriage is also not about marriage even though there is a union. If you are looking for marital extravaganza or expecting to read about a colourful marriage ceremony, you will be disappointed. In fact, the marriage here is least important of all the things in the book yet it is a significant one.
The Story of a Brief Marriage is certainly not brief. The detailed description of every small emotion, incidents and physiological phenomenon amazes us for author’s mastery over the choice of words and detailed expressions.
The novelty of this novel takes us to a new height when we understand that no part of this fiction is actually fictitious. It is the bitter reality in a large part of the world today. The marriage that lasted only for one night was not about one night stand. The marriage, that was never a ‘marriage’ as per acceptable social norms, there was no horoscope matching or guna milan, there was no party, no function and yet there were blasts to compensate for the music. The union called ‘marriage’ was a necessity for the bride and groom to survive. It was a strategic decision.
The bride was not ready, still, they were united, out of some compulsion or otherwise. But still, The Story of a Brief Marriage is not about that marriage.
Set in the backdrop of the Sri Lankan civil war, the author has brilliantly shown what goes inside the world of a common man. He depicted the civil war through the lens of a common man, showed his physical and psychological changes and his compulsions in these situations.
Being in a comfortable part of the world, we fail to understand the troubled war-torn people face. They don’t show emotions, talk less and even become immune to normal human emotions; because when nothing is in their control there is no point in showing emotions. In this world, people don’t know when they will lose their limbs for no fault of theirs, they also don’t know when they will lose their loved ones. The choice here is to either die now or die after some time; either very fast or slowly; either die of fasting or in the military shelling.
When you read this novel, your emotions will run amok. Every page you read will bring warring emotions. All conflicting emotions will overwhelm your thought. That’s why it may be difficult for you to read the whole book in one go. You need to pause, take breaks and then proceed, think and gather your emotions together to continue.
During our evolution history, there were times when we as humans fought severe wars to survive. We survived in the scarcity of food, we survived natural disasters and fierce enemy attacks, we survived everything. But, today we have lost those surviving skills. The modern society that makes every necessary thing for our survival at our doorstep; but what happens when we no longer get access to those amenities; what happens when our access to all modern benefits cease to be available to us; what happens when our money can’t buy those anymore? We walk back in our evolution journey and are forced to live a sub-optimal life. The Story of A Brief Marriage is a world-class depiction of that world.
A close parallel to this situation can be drawn from Palestine war or from the Syrian crisis. Marriage in this world is a necessity for women to be treated better by the warring groups, but the necessity of a marriage is more for a man in these societies. An unmarried man in these societies is more likely to get recruited by the rebels as a soldier, an unmarried man is also more likely to be abused by the soldiers of the opposite group. Peaceful living, or escaping joining any of the warring groups is not very likely for these men. Also, it doesn’t make much sense, because sooner or later they are killed in the bombing, they lose their loved ones, forced to live the life of a sub-human being. The Story Of A Brief Marriage just brings a first-hand description of that life.
If we look at today’s Palestine society, marriage is also a necessity there. 60% of men and 70% of women in Palestine are married. It is not only about producing more children to take part in the war, but also to bring the perceived social security in the ravaged society. The result, men in these societies are extremely pressurized as revealed in a recent UN survey.
Writer Anuk Arudpragasam brings a unique experience to us through this literary work. You need to read this piece of artwork to get amazed. This is a work that needs to be kept on your bookshelf for long, this may be your most lovely piece of the gift as well.
This Sri Lankan masterpiece in its own right has claimed the DSC Award for South Asian literature in 2017. It’s a lesson for all of us that we take our life for granted. We don’t appreciate the fortune we get every day because of our peaceful lives. We understand how fortunate we are only when we experience the novelty of The Story of A Brief Marriage.
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