His Sacred Army is the first volume of a quintet of novels, Prison of Dreams, which tells the story of the growth of the armed struggle in Sri Lanka in the eighties. Through the experiences of its characters, who desire simply to go about their ordinary lives, the quintet depicts the suffering and separations caused by the political exploitation of ethnic differences leading to a full-fledged civil war.
His Sacred Army centres around the life of a young woman, Rajalakshmi, and the small island community of Nainativu to which she belongs. Nainativu is situated off the coast of Sri Lanka and is a site rich in folklore and religious significance. Rajalakshmi’s simple dreams of employment to support her struggling family and marriage to her childhood friend Suthan are threatened by malicious gossip in the village and civil conflict in the nation. Her beloved Suthan faces the dilemma of whether to follow his father’s political path of constitutional reform or to join the growing separatist movement.
Devakanthan (Bala Kumarasamy) was displaced by the war in Sri Lanka in the early eighties and lived in India before moving to Canada. He now lives in Toronto and is an active member of the Canadian Tamil literary scene as author and arts critic. Devakanthan is one of the few Tamil writers who have been able to maintain a literary career, from the seventies onward. Many either died young during the war or gave up writing in spite of promising early works. He is a reader of Sanskrit and ancient Tamil, and has drawn from those influences in some of his works, with the novels Lankapuram and Kathakalam being reimaginings of the Ramayana and Mahabharata. His Sacred Army, the first volume of his quintet, won the Government of Tamil Nadu Novel of the Year Award (1998), and the quintet as a whole received the Tamil Literary Garden’s Best Novel Award (2014).
Nedra Rodrigo was born in Sri Lanka and came to Canada during the civil war. She is a translator, poet, workshop organizer at the York Centre for Asian Research, and arts educator for youth in the York Region District School Board. She is also the founder of the Tamil Studies Symposium at York University. She is the founder and current host of the bilingual, inclusive literary event, the Tam Fam Lit Jam. Nedra’s poetry and essays have been published in various anthologies. Her translation credits include the poetry of R Cheran, Puthuvai Ratnathurai, and V I S Jayapalan in the collection Human Rights and the Arts in Global Asia; the memoir In the Shadow of a Sword, published by SAGE YODA Press, India (2020); Kuna Kaviyazhakan’s “Forest That Took Poison,” shortlisted for the inaugural Global Humanities Translation Prize; and the Prison of Dreams quintet. She lives in Toronto.