20 July, 2024


‘Odyssey Of War’, A Novel By Noel Nadesan

By Channa Wicremesekera

Asokan is a young Sri Lankan Tamil, living in Melbourne, Australia. He is orphaned by the civil war in Sri Lanka, and is forced to leave his home during the military offensive on the Jaffna peninsula in 1995… He manages to leave the island and find his way to Melbourne via Malaysia and make a new life for himself in Australia. But his good fortune comes at a heavy price. He relocates to Melbourne with the help of the sympathisers of the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Ealam (LTTE). These operatives of the LTTE also want him to help them further their cause. Asokan finds employment in a bank and the LTTE sympathisers want Asokan to help them in their fund raising and money laundering activities. While holidaying in India Asokan meets an Australian girl Jenny and falls in love. It turns out to be a fateful meeting. Jenny is not just a pretty face; she is also an operative of the Australian secret service, ASIO. And she is tasked with inveigling herself into the confidence of Asokan in order to investigate the terrorist-related activities of Australia-based Tamil fundraising groups. The stage is thus set for an interesting and engaging story that spans three countries and two continents and involves a host of colourful characters.

Asokan’s involvement with the LTTE’s fundraising activities takes him to Sri Lanka where he meets LTTE operatives. To his great dismay he learns that Karthika, the daughter of the family that adopted him after he became an orphan, had joined the LTTE as a female fighter. In the meantime, Jenny, struggling to balance her affections for Asokan with her commitment to her career, also visits the island to carry out her investigations. In the meantime a Sri Lankan military officer is also sent to Melbourne to investigate the funding activities of the LTTE. While all this feverish activity goes on, the war breaks out again with devastating consequences for the LTTE. While the Tigers are annihilated, Karthika escapes with the help of Jenny. Asokan and Jenny are married and Karthika is united with them in Melbourne. Karthika’s husband, the LTTE cadre Santhan also makes his way to Australia thanks to his fateful encounter with a Sri Lankan military officer. Happily, Jenny’s espionage, despite the tension it creates, has no adverse impact on Asokan or their relationship.

The novel takes the reader into the dark worlds of espionage and terrorism. The reader is offered an insight into the way money laundering works in the service of terrorist/guerrilla organisations. The author’s extensive knowledge of the Tamil militant movements, garnered from first-hand experience has been valuable in this regard. As a result one gets more than a glimpse of the way clandestine outfits operate with regards to raising and using funds. We get to see how money raised from sympathisers to the Tamil cause is diverted to the benefit of the guerrilla organisation. The corruption within the movement is also described in interesting detail, showing how an organisation ostensibly fighting or the liberation of a people can easily deteriorate into a den of thieves. The operations of Jenny are also an eye-opener. It brings the reader in to the world of modern secret service work though the involvement of Jenny. The reader also gets to see the ugly and nasty side of the LTTE campaign. Karthika’s friend Selvi is coerced into becoming a suicide bomber, playing the ultimate price. Selvi is brutally made to sacrifice her life with the threat that if she refuses, her friend Karthika will be chosen in her place. She is also forced to become pregnant in order to make her disguise more complete. The heart-rending story of Niyaz, even though a little bit too long, also adds another, poignant touch to the novel. Niyaz is a Muslim form Jaffna who is forced out of his home by the LTTE and held as a prisoner and tortured. He is made to suffer incredible hardships, yet endures and survives. In a remarkable twist of fate, Niyaz ends up serving his tormentors in order to survive.

All this is related with a gentleness and sympathy for the characters. A very uplifting aspect of the novel is the way it brings out the humanity of all the characters. The author offers insights into the psyches of people from all sides of the conflict, Sinhalese, Tamil and Muslim, civilians and combatants, and weaves them in to the story with considerable skill. A poignant story is the one involving Karthika’s husband Santhan and the Sri Lankan army officer Sunil. Santhan shoots Sunil in the leg but refuses to kill him. The two escape the battlefield together and later when Sunil has the power to deny Santhan his freedom he chooses to repay Santhan by allowing him to escape to Australia. It shows the triumph of common humanity over ethnic differences and deeply entrenched hatred and hostility.

The novel opens in India where Asokan and Jenny first meet but moves back and forth between countries and contents, past and the present, smoothly, in order to deliver an entertaining and absorbing drama. A novel with an engaging mix of romance, suspense and war, ‘Odyssey of war’holds the reader’s attention till the very end.

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Latest comments

  • 1

    An Odyssey is a journey. The War in the story is mine as well. If I were to rehearse my journey, Asokan’s journey is a mere pastime.

  • 0

    Channa Wickremesekera, There are no other reviews about this book anywhere else on the net neither it is listed on Amazon under the author’s other work. It looks like your’s is the first review of the book. Could you tell us when this was first published, if you don’t mind? Thank you.

  • 1

    The theme suggests that it will make a third rate Tamil movie.

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