Author(s): John Gimlette
Sri Lanka is a small island with a long, violent and enthralling history. Home to thousands of wild elephants, this is a place where natural beauty has endured, indifferent to human tragedy. Journeying through its regions - some haunted by war, many rarely seen by our eyes - award-winning travel writer John Gimlette interviews ex-presidents and cricketers, tea planters and terrorists, negotiating the complex relationships of diverse communities and the more sinister forms of tourism. Each city raises the ghosts of Portuguese, Dutch or British colonies; each site resurrects a civilization that preceded, and sometimes, outfaced them. The political families of Colombo lead Gimlette through years of turmoil, survivors of the tsunami tell of their recovery and the thorny truths of the civil war emerge - a war whose wounds have yet to heal. As he walks in the steps of old conquerors, follows the secret paths of elephants and marches alongside pilgrims, Gimlette seeks the soul of a country that is striving to free itself from trauma and embody an identity to match its vitality, its power and its people.
The reader in search of a thoughtful adventure is in good hands. Gimlette brings a brisk barrister-like inquisition to proceedings, allied with amiable good humour and a searching interest in the history of peoples and places ... Intrepid to the last, Gimlette wanders among mountains and jungles, drawing his journey to a close among the wreckage of the civil war ... Rich in humour, full of insight and humanity, Elephant Complex is a very fine tribute to this enigmatic island nation Spectator Brilliant ... It displays his gift for graphic imagery and his eye for the absurd. But it is, perhaps, his darkest book yet ... Along with the swimming trunks and the sunblock, I'd pack a copy of Elephant Complex Telegraph A gripping account of an under-reported island -- Sara Wheeler Spectator, Book of the Year Insightful and interesting ... holistic observation of humanity as entalged in acryptic webbing of mortality, immortality and matter that Gimlette offers us ... The great appeal of this book is that we travel alongside him Ceylon Today A quest to understand the country, and not a mere description of it. This is what sets the book apart from the legion of Ceylon and Sri Lanka travelogues... Sri Lankans themselves will find Gimlette's renditions of places from Colombo to the desolate Wanni inspiring and evocative ... While many travel writers on Ceylon often tended to trim and twist the country to fit it into their own neat narrative, Gimlette does not hide the incongruities and bafflements he encountered Sri Lanka Sunday Times Book of the Year: The 'elephant complex' of the title refers to ancient paths that the creatures have always followed on the island. Gimlette believes he must trace similar historical paths to get under the skin of Sri Lanka. He does so with wit and the occasional scrape with the authorities The Times An intrepid journey to the famously reclusive island unearths a paradise amid trauma and obfuscation ... An effortless, elegant writer, Gimlette chronicles the stories of these truculent, traumatized people ... An exuberant, eye-opening travel quest Kirkus As for Mr. Gimlette, it is hard to think of a more astute and sympathetic companion for a journey around the island and into Sri Lanka's episodic bouts of madness. He is beguiled by the place and its people, for a start. He writes beautifully, all freshness and verve. And he is also very funny Wall Street Journal To read Elephant Complex is to get the most accurate and thorough modern history of Sri Lanka - and to read it is to understand what it is that makes it so magical, in spite of its recent ugliness. -- Kristin Fritz Everyday ebook He brings the open mind, the erudition and the eye for telling detail ... no rogue is denied a fair hearing; no hint of the absurd escapes his attention and no metaphor misfires ... Admirable in its candour ... Elephant Complex has a sting in its tail -- John Keay Times Literary Supplement Travel books by writer, barrister and Londoner John Gimlette win praise for their witty, detailed adventures, drawing on local characters he meets The Guardian Witty, detailed adventures, drawing on local characters he meets ... Gimlette hears from ex-presidents, tea-planters, terrorists and pilgrims, exploring the country from the capital, Colombo, to the ancient reservoirs that attract the island's thousands of wild elephants Guardian, Best New Travel Books
John Gimlette is the winner of the Shiva Naipaul Prize for Travel Writing. He crossed the Soviet Union at the age of seventeen, worked in Argentina on the eve of war and has travelled to over eighty countries. He has published four previous books: At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig, Theatre of Fish, Panther Soup and Wild Coast (winner of the Dolman Travel Book Prize) which have all featured on Radio 4, and contributes articles and photographs to various newspapers and magazines. He lives in London where he practices as a barrister.