Anuk Arudpragasam was born in 1988 to a Tamil family in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He graduated with a doctorate in philosophy from Columbia University in New York.
He published his debut novel »The Story of a Brief Marriage« in 2016. The novel is set in an unspecified refugee camp over the course of just one day and one night during the Sri Lankan civil war and follows the story of Dinesh, a young man whose mother died while fleeing, and Ganga. Bound together by an arranged marriage, they do not have much time together – as the title of the novel already suggests.
Without discussing political details, the novel concentrates on the vivid depiction of everyday life during war, focusing repeatedly on moments of humanity. According to the »FAZ«, »The richness of this astonishing debut lies in the precise perception and description of details.« The book was awarded the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature in 2017, was shortlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize, and has been translated into several languages.
Arudpragasam’s second novel, »A Passage North« , is set in Sri Lanka after the end of the war that marked the country from 1983 to 2009. Krishan, a highly educated young man from the middleclass, travels north from Colombo to attend the funeral of his grandmother’s nurse, whom he suspects has taken her own life. This is the starting point for a reflection that oscillates between memory, daydream, and free association in order to explore the history of Sri Lanka, the impact of violence on the lives of individuals and, finally, the feelings of guilt that come with having been spared from the horrors.
Critics once again praised Arudpragasam’s precise powers of observation. The »New York Times« wrote that »He is equally gifted at atmospheric, sensory description that transports the reader to Sri Lanka and India and at examining the emotions – elation, fear, impatience, satisfaction, shame – that simmer below the surface of our everyday lives.« The book was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2021.
Arudpragasam does not deny the influence literary models such as Virginia Woolf, Marcel Proust, and Robert Musil have had on his work; on the contrary, he sees each book as a kind of traineeship with the authors he wants to emulate. While he drew on Samuel Beckett and Péter Nádas for his first novel, especially regarding the connection between body and consciousness, Thomas Bernhard and Javier Marías’ play with digression and rhythm provided the inspiration for his second novel.
Anuk Arudpragasam has been selected as a 2022 guest of the DAAD Artists-in-Berlin Program. He currently lives in Berlin.