Books·Canadian

The Hungry Ghosts

This novel by Shyam Selvadurai is an unconventional exploration of the immigrant experience.

Shyam Selvadurai

In Sri Lankan myth, a person who dies may be reborn a "hungry ghost" — a ghost with a large stomach that can never be filled through its tiny mouth — if he has desired too much during his life. It is the duty of the living to free the dead who are doomed to this fate by transferring karma from their own good deeds. In Shyam Selvadurai's masterful new novel, Shivan, a troubled young man of mixed Tamil and Sinhalese ancestry, is preparing to travel from Toronto, Canada, to the land of his childhood, Sri Lanka, to rescue his ailing grandmother and bring her back to die. But on the eve of his departure — as Shivan meditates on his turbulent past, recalls his gradual discovery of his homosexuality, and wrestles with his complicated relationship with the wily old woman — he discovers just how much his own heart's desires are entwined with the volatile political, racial, and sexual mix of Sri Lanka's past and present. In the end, Shivan must decide: will he rescue his grandmother, or join her?

The Hungry Ghosts is an unconventional exploration of the immigrant experience; a tale of family ties and the long reach of the past; and a heartwrenching look at how racial, political, and sexual differences can tear apart a country, a family, and a human being. (From Anchor Canada)

Interviews

In this CBC Books video series, author Shyam Selvadurai speaks about the need for authentic and diverse perspectives in Canadian literature. 2:33
Eleanor speaks with six writers on stage at the International Literary Arts Festival in Victoria: Ian McEwan, A.L. Kennedy, Clare Boylan, Rosemary Sullivan, Shyam Selvadurai and Esta Spalding talk about love in life and literature. 52:31