The Rajapaksa Stories

I heard Koom Kankesan read a section of the story Celluloid Visions recently at Racket at the Rocket. After reading my review of his reading Koom asked me if I wanted to do review of the book itself & then sent me pdf copy of it.

blue grid
blue grid

Let me first say my politics consists of one-liners as opposed to thoughtful opinions. Thank to media politics is mostly another well edited reality show – the world’s next top leader or worse ass-hole – which could be won by the same person depending on the spin.

Koom’s book is a cynical, no holds barred, set of stories about the Rajapaksa family junta that rules Sir Lanka – beyond that it is about the racial battle between the Tamils and the Singhalese – the sort of tribal warfare that has driven many cultures.

black horizontals
black horizontals

I loved the relentlessness of Koom’s ironic tone and vision of this family. One is dismayed, appalled but sometime sympathetic toward them and their foibles – from their fascination with American hop-hop gangstas to bathing in the blood of virgins.

At points laugh-out-loud funny and sometimes unexpectedly poetic, the stories held me with their easy and clear sense of place, character, and motivations. I particularly enjoy the subtext of the search for identity though popular America movies. I loved the male Singhalese Rajapaksa pretending, on a dating site, to be a female Tamil fashion model – these layers of sexual, tribal confusion are deliciously drawn and the results hilarious.

green spiral
green spiral

Of course Rajapaksa ends up in Toronto meeting with our own bombastic autocratic Rob Ford in the final story that goes out with sweet intergalactic swirl of Moonraker, the Scottish play & reincarnation (of a sorts). The Rajapaksa Stories are highly recommended.



My brother wanted to get out of the car. He’d never seen a cow before. Neither had I but I had no interest in seeing a cow. We were on one of my Dad’s Sunday adventure drives. He’d hop in the car with us kids – me, the oldest, my brother then our two little sister. Then drive without a goal.

There were some places we’d see at least once a month. Places our Dad knew we’d like. But at least once a month we’d have no idea where he was taking us. This time he’d suddenly turned off the highway – nice smooth and paved and onto a dirt road. Gravel pecking at the underside of the car.

Empty fields then forest clumps more empty fields. Up hills then down. A puddle from recent rain at the bottom of this last one where we made the biggest splash I’d ever seen.

My sisters screamed with glee and fear as my brother shouted “We’re going down down down. We’re going to drown drown drown.”

We didn’t drown but the bottom of the car scraped something with an ugly grind. At the level end of this lane Dad got out to look underneath.

“Looks fine. Nothing leaking.”

That’s when the cows came over. Only four of them. Not in a hurry but slowly they came over to the fence as our Dad got back in the car. He started off again and the cows seemed to follow us along the fence as my Dad drove slowly. My bother wanted to stop.

So we stopped. Me and my brother got out and stepped over to the cows. Their gigantic headed drooling as they nodded to us. The smell of cow shit was over powering. “They stink.” my brother laughed. “They smell worse than you girls.”

My sisters got out of the car. Eyes bigger than cow eyes. Each of them had half an apple that our mother had cut for a snack later.

One held it up to the nearest cow. Big pink tongue licked out for the slice and both my sisters screamed and ran back to the car.

We boys got back in.

“What did you think was going to happen.” I asked. “They don’t have hands to take food from you.”

My sister was wiping her hand on a towel. Smelling it and wiping it some more.

“Now you know where milk comes from.” My Dad said, as we eased back on the road.

“Milk?” My sister turned pale. She was never fond of milk after that.

a growing up green
a growing up green

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3 thoughts on “The Rajapaksa Stories

  1. “Cow” made me laugh – I remember going to the stock show in elementary school and marveling at the sheer size of the beasts. I wasn’t very fond of milk or beef for a long time either, lol.

  2. […] Next up was Koom Kankesan with a section of one of his Rajapaksa Stories. A funny, sardonic take on the politics of Sri Lanka from someone who experienced it first-hand. The section showed how consumerism is gradually dominating culture – with a protagonist caught up in Chinese technology and fascinated with American ‘classic’ films. He made great use of the rat squeeze toys & had fun with the ‘you fucked my wife’ scene from Raging Bull. (my review of the book: […]

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