Elephant Complex: Travels in Sri Lanka

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No one sees the world quite like John Gimlette. As The New York Times once noted, “he writes with enormous wit, indignation, and a heightened sense of the absurd.” Writing for both the adventurer and the armchair traveler, he has an eye for unusually telling detail, a sense of wonder, and compelling curiosity for the inside story. This time, he travels to Sri Lanka, a country only now emerging from twenty-six years of civil war. Delving deep into the nation’s story, Gimlette provides us with an astonishing, multifaceted portrait of the island today.

His travels reveal the country as never before. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo (“a hint of anarchy everywhere”), he ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the “Bible Belt” of Buddhism—the tsunami-ravaged southeast coast; then up into the great green highlands (“the garden in the sky”) and Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la. Along the way, a wild and often desperate history takes shape, a tale of great colonies (Arab, Portuguese, British, and Dutch) and of the cultural divisions that still divide this society. Before long, we’re in Jaffna and the Vanni, crucibles of the recent conflict. These areas—the hottest, driest, and least hospitable—have been utterly devastated by war and are only now struggling to their feet.

But this is also a story of friendship and remarkable encounters. In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, ancient tribesmen, world-class cricketers, terrorists, a former president, old planters, survivors of great massacres—and perhaps some of their perpetrators. That’s to say nothing of the island’s beguiling fauna: elephants, crocodiles, snakes, storks, and the greatest concentration of leopards on Earth.
           
Here is a land of extravagant beauty and profound devastation, of ingenuity and catastrophe, possessed of both a volatile past and an uncertain future—a place capable of being at once heavenly and hellish—all brought to vibrant, fascinating life here on the page.


From the Hardcover edition.
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About the author

JOHN GIMLETTE has won the Shiva Naipaul Memorial Prize and the Wanderlust Travel Writing Award, and he contributes regularly to The Times (London), The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Independent, and Condé Nast Traveller. When not traveling, he practices law in London.


From the Hardcover edition.
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Additional Information

Publisher
Vintage
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Published on
Feb 16, 2016
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Pages
432
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ISBN
9780385351287
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Features
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Language
English
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Genres
History / Asia / Southeast Asia
Travel / Asia / Southeast
Travel / Essays & Travelogues
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Content Protection
This content is DRM protected.
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Eligible for Family Library

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John Gimlette
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John Gimlette
A wildly humorous account of the author's travels across Paraguay–South America's darkly fabled, little-known “island surrounded by land.”

Rarely visited by tourists and barely touched by global village sprawl, Paraguay remains a mystery to outsiders. Think of this small nation and your mind is likely to jump to Nazis, dictators, and soccer. Now, John Gimlette’s eye-opening book–equal parts travelogue, history, and unorthodox travel guide–breaches the boundaries of this isolated land,” and illuminates a little-understood place and its people.

It is a wonderfully animated telling of Paraguay's story: of cannibals, Jesuits, and sixteenth-century Anabaptists; of Victorian Australian socialists and talented smugglers; of dictators and their mad mistresses; bloody wars and Utopian settlements; and of lives transplanted from Japan, Britain, Poland, Russia, Germany, Ireland, Korea, and the United States. The author travels from the insular cities and towns of the east, along ghostly trails through the countryside, to reach the Gran Chaco of the west: the “green hell” covering almost two-thirds of the country, where 4 percent of the population coexists–more or very-much-less peacefully–with a vast array of exotic wildlife that includes jaguars, prehistoric lungfish, and their more recently evolved distant cousins, the great fighting river fish. Gimlette visits with Mennonites and the indigenas, arms dealers and real-estate tycoons, shopkeepers, government bureaucrats and, of course, Nazis.

Filled with bizarre incident, fascinating anecdote, and richly evocative detail, At the Tomb of the Inflatable Pig is a brilliant description of a country of eccentricity and contradiction, of beguilingly individualistic men and women, and of unexpected and extraordinary beauty. It is a vivid, often riotous, always fascinating, journey.


From the Hardcover edition.
John Gimlette
Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana are among the least-known places in South America: nine hundred miles of muddy coastline giving way to a forest so dense that even today there are virtually no roads through it; a string of rickety coastal towns situated between the mouths of the Orinoco and Amazon Rivers, where living is so difficult that as many Guianese live abroad as in their homelands; an interior of watery, green anarchy where border disputes are often based on ancient Elizabethan maps, where flora and fauna are still being discovered, where thousands of rivers remain mostly impassable. And under the lens of John Gimlette—brilliantly offbeat, irreverent, and canny—these three small countries are among the most wildly intriguing places on earth.

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In Wild Coast, John Gimlette guides us through a fabulously entertaining, eye-opening—and sometimes jaw-dropping—journey.
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