KILLINGS, daily columns and blog —

From the Editors

Editor’s Pick: Wave by Sonali Deraniyagala

by , March 27, 2014Leave a comment

The Wave

On Boxing Day in 2004 an earthquake deep in the Indian ocean – the third largest ever recorded, which caused the entire Earth to shake by 1 centimetre – triggered a tsunami that devastated the coastal towns of Indonesia, India, Thailand and Sri Lanka. Over two hundred and thirty thousand people were killed. When confronted with these numbers it is hard to comprehend the magnitude of such an event. Over thirty-five thousand causalities occurred in Sri Lanka alone. Around two hundred and fifty of those people were in the Yala National Park on the south-east coast. Five belonged to the same family.

In Sonali Deraniyagala’s memoir Wave we are given an insight into one woman’s experience of that day, and the desolation that followed. Deraniyagala, raised in Sri Lanka and an economist living in London, had returned with her family for the Christmas holidays.  Her husband, Stephen, and two young sons, Vik and Malli, were getting ready to leave, their safari vacation over, when she noticed the ocean rising: ‘Waves not receding or dissolving. Closer now. Brown and gray. Brown or gray. Waves rushing past the conifers and coming closer to our room. All these waves now, charging, churning. Suddenly furious. Suddenly menacing.’Deraniyagala’s parents were in the hotel room next door. As Deraniyagala and her husband run past with the children, they do not stop to knock. Only Deraniyagala survives. Her parents, husband and two sons are swallowed by the wave.

Reminiscent of Joan Didion’s duet Blue Nights and The Year of Magical Thinking, Deraniyagala’s prose is cool and detached, allowing us access into what might otherwise be an unfathomable pain. Deraniyagala is not prone to over dramatisation – indeed her story is in no need of it – but the distant way that she describes the months after the tsunami allows the reader to slowly inhale the reality of this grief, to examine it closely without being overwhelmed by it. In the periphery of Deraniyagala’s vision we see glimpses of the family and friends in Colombo who are trying desperately to keep her safe: aunts spiriting away alcohol and sharp objects, friends visiting from London, a cousin who metes out sleeping pills one at a time.

As she emerges from the initial stupor we are with her when her anger takes over. In a heartbreaking passage, Deraniyagala recounts her obsession with the family that comes to occupy her parents’ house. She spends nights outside, rattling the gates, pretending to be a ghost. She whispers threats into the phone until the family changes their number. She attempts to confront the extent of her loss, the immensity of her pain becoming clear in the smallest of details:

‘We will not fly back to London. The boys will not be at school on Tuesday. Steve will not call me from work to ask if I took them in on time. Vik will not play tag outside his classroom again. Malli will not skip in a circle with some little girls. The Gruffalo. Malli will not cuddle me in bed and read about the Gruffalo, with that poisonous wart at the end of its nose. Vik will not be excited by whoever scored for Liverpool. They will not peep into the oven to check if my apple crumble has cooked.’

And yet, despite the intensity of Deraniyagala’s grief, the effect of Wave is not entirely devastating.

In his review for the New Yorker, ‘A Better Quality of Agony’, Teju Cole describes Wave as ‘two stories in one.’ The initial story, Cole says, is that of ‘the stunned horror of a woman who lost, in one moment, her past, present, and future…The second story is about remembering the life of a family when they were happy.’ It is this dual narrative that brings light to the experience of reading Wave. She returns to the family’s London house and among the detritus of a life lived the image of the life she has lost comes into sharper focus. Vignettes of life before the tsunami rise to the surface, a life that had been described by a friend in the moments before the tsunami as ‘a dream’.

As the years pass Deraniyagala begins to emerge into the world, almost without will. She simply lives. Deraniyagala’s memoir offers no answers; there is no moment of resolution. But there are moments of relief. From her new apartment in New York eight years later, Deraniyagala allows herself to slip ‘between this life and that,’ allowing space for the voices of her lost family:

‘This is very different from those early months after the wave, when all I heard was a sudden whisper, some snatches of sound. Their voices have doubled in strength now, not faded with time. Their chatter plays with my thoughts no end. And I am sustained by this, it gives me spark.’

 

Brigid Mullane is editor of Kill Your Darlings

ACO logo




9781863957434

Kill Your Darlings

What We’re Reading: Readings staff share their June picks

Looking for a book recommendation? Staff from Readings bookshop share what they’ve been reading this month. Read more »

lisa-gorton_the-life-of-houses

James Tierney

A Novel of Longer Exhalations: Lisa Gorton’s The Life of Houses

It’s sometimes said that each book teaches you how to read it. That each way of telling a story needs to not only beguile anew but needs to tutor the reader in the ways to best attend its pages. Read more »

9781743316337

Danielle Binks

Finding Books for Young Readers: The Reading Children’s Book Prize

James Patterson once said, ‘There’s no such thing as a kid who hates reading. There are kids who love reading and kids who are reading the wrong books.’ So how do we get the right books into the hands of budding bibliophiles? Well, the Readings Children’s Book Prize Shortlist is a great place to start. Read more »

clouds-of-sila-maria-1

Rebecca Shaw

The curse of the ‘gal pals’

As a well-known humourless, angry, hairy arm-pitted, feminist lesbian, I encounter daily issues that I can place on a scale from things that mildly irritate me all the way to things that completely offend me. Read more »

2691149967_01b38304f3_b

Rebecca Shaw

Fuck Yeah: Swearing like a lady

I had been trying to pinpoint exactly why the HBO television show Veep brings me such joy. Yes, it is a very funny, very well-written show with a great cast, but that didn’t quite go far enough in explaining the immense enjoyment it gives me. The eureuka moment finally struck when I stumbled over a compilation video of the best insults from the show. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

tom-cruise-jack-reacher-premiere-postponed

Chris Somerville

A lit match in a box of wet dynamite: Tom Cruise is Jack Reacher

I first watched Jack Reacher a few years ago, in a spate of insomnia. The plot is a confused mess, both needlessly intricate and incredibly simple. I’m not going to go into it, mainly because I don’t actually know why the people in this movie do anything. Read more »

Partisan

Joanna Di Mattia

To experience the world with blinkers on: Ariel Kleiman’s Partisan

Partisan beautifully evokes that complex space between childhood and adulthood, when we start to question the worldview we have inherited – when we begin to see the world through our own eyes. It is both a coming-of-age story, and an innocence-coming-undone story. Read more »

Zombies

Michelle Roger

It’s All Just Preparation for the Zombie Apocalypse

‘She’s just another Walking Dead hanger-on,’ I hear you say. Well, yes, I am partial to a bit of walker action. And yes, I may have entertained the odd erotic daydream about a crossbow carrying, scraggy-bearded redneck – but this is not where my zombie obsession began. Come gather around people. Hear my obsessive zombie-loving origin story. Read more »

OITNB2

Anwen Crawford

Still in Prison: The limitations of Orange is the New Black

No, I haven’t binge-watched the entire new season of Orange Is The New Black in one sleepless, bleary-eyed frenzy. This season, the show’s third, doesn’t lend itself to that kind of viewing. The pace is slower, the cliff-hangers missing. Read more »

kim-kardashian-selfish-cover-main

Brodie Lancaster

We Are All Kardashians

For the past five years, I have loved and been obsessed with the Kardashians. Specifically, the E! reality series that made them famous. I often feel the need to intellectualise why I like these series and the people on them – you know, because I’m not a moron, and these are shows about morons, for morons. Read more »

ss_8df8236403f5aad45eeedd33d2bd545e45435b39.1920x1080

Katie Williams

The More Things Change: Choice and consequence in Life is Strange

You can either be a benevolent hero or a monster, but few games deal with the multitudes contained by actual people. And what does it matter, anyway? There’s no such thing as regret when it comes to in-game decision-making – not when you can so easily restart the game to see what outcome will result from choosing Option B instead. Read more »

svfw crop

Katie Williams

Silicon Valley Fashion Week?: Fashion, technology, and wearability

Last week saw the inaugural Silicon Valley Fashion Week? (yes, with a question mark) unfold in San Francisco. The show promised ‘drones, robots, and mad inventions’, and tickets sold out swiftly; attendees were clearly eager to see more inventive clothing in this heartland of nerds. Read more »

AnimalCrossing copy

Katie Williams

Digging For Meaning in Utopia: Storytelling in Animal Crossing

Animal Crossing is a series of games in which – as my partner once remarked incredulously – ‘nothing ever happens.’ In its latest incarnation, Animal Crossing: New Leaf, you become the unwitting mayor of a town populated by anthropomorphic, bipedal animals. Read more »

CrawlMeBlood_20150607_261_LoRes copy

Jane Howard

Adhocracy: Lifting the curtain on the creative process

Every June long weekend I wrap myself up in several extra layers and make my way to the Waterside Worker’s Hall in Port Adelaide for Adhocracy, Vitalstatistix’s annual hothouse that brings together artists from around the country for a weekend of creative development. Read more »

Orlando #2 - THE RABBLE

Jane Howard

This Is a Story of Artistic Excellence

This is a story of the first four plays I saw at Malthouse Theatre. It’s a story that can only continue as long as support for independent artists continues; it’s a story that can only keep growing as long as support for independent artists grows. It’s a story of where artistic excellence comes from, and how we get to see it on our main stages. Read more »

AnneEdmonds-300dpi-sml-860x450_c

Alexandra Neill

Curse of the Comedienne: When comedy comes before gender

At this year’s Melbourne International Comedy Festival, I saw only shows by women. I did this for several reasons: to support great comedians, to force myself to see more shows I knew nothing about, and because I really like comedy by ladies. I also did it because I was curious. I love comedy, but increasingly have been bothered by the obvious gender disparity. Read more »