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Monkfish Moon


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Nine beautifully modulated and memorable stories mark the U.S. debut of Gunesekera, who grew up in Sri Lanka and the Philippines and now lives in London. The unusual power of Gunesekera's writing stems from his graceful manipulation of contrasts: set mostly in Sri Lanka, the stories oppose the almost Baudelairean voluptuousness of the geography with seemingly uncontrollable political violence, the innocence of the observed characters with the omniscience of the narrators. Even Gunesekera's politicos are naifs: ``I think his idea of a revolution was something like a gentleman's agreement to rearrange the furniture,'' says a daughter of her wealthy father's communism in the years before the insurgency. The natural surroundings are sharply scrutinized and sturdily evoked in unassuming, surprisingly potent descriptive passages. Plotting remains deliberately uncomplicated, and while the protagonists themselves measure the dramas of their own destinies against vaster social upheavals, Gunesekera never loses sight of his characters' worth and dignity. An auspicious first work. (Apr.)

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