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In the Shadow of a Sword

Nominated | Book Awards 2021 | English Non-fiction

In the Shadow of a Sword (oru kuurvaaLin Nizhaalil (Memoirs of Thamzhini))

Thamizhini joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the age of nineteen and spent eighteen years as a combatant, educator and, for some time, head of the women’s division of its Political Wing. Her memoir, In the Shadow of a Sword, weaves back and forth between reminiscences of her childhood experiences of state violence and her decision to join the LTTE. It recounts the many projects she undertook for the civilian population; her participation in the Peace Talks of 2002; the freedoms granted and constraints placed upon her during the armed struggle; and her experiences in combat training, on the battlefield, and in political negotiations and diplomacy. It is a narrative weighted with grief and remorse yet glistening with moments of humour and thick with compassion. The memoir contains wry observations on gender roles and media manipulation in times of war and is a valuable archive that rescues female combatants from oblivion.

Full Title: In the Shadow of a Sword: The Memoir of a Woman Leader in the LTTE

Author: Thamzhini
Publisher: Sage Publications
Translator: Nedra Rodrigo
Original Language: Tamil

Award Category: English Non-fiction
About the Book: 

Thamizhini joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) at the age of nineteen and spent eighteen years as a combatant, educator and, for some time, head of the women’s division of its Political Wing. Her memoir, In the Shadow of a Sword, weaves back and forth between reminiscences of her childhood experiences of state violence and her decision to join the LTTE. It recounts the many projects she undertook for the civilian population; her participation in the Peace Talks of 2002; the freedoms granted and constraints placed upon her during the armed struggle; and her experiences in combat training, on the battlefield, and in political negotiations and diplomacy. It is a narrative weighted with grief and remorse yet glistening with moments of humour and thick with compassion. The memoir contains wry observations on gender roles and media manipulation in times of war and is a valuable archive that rescues female combatants from oblivion.


About the Author: 

When Thamizhini was a student at the Parandhan Hindu Mahavidyalaya (1991), she joined the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE). Having acquired much combat experience even as a young woman, she later became a functionary in the women’s section of the LTTE’s political wing. As a leader, she earned the respect of LTTE chief Prabhakaran, leaders like Anton Balasingham and Adele Balasingham, and the people she served. She participated in several high-level meetings and events that happened during that period, and interacted with several national and international leaders and representatives.

Nedra Rodrigo is a co-founder of the Tamil Studies Symposium at York University, and an external researcher at the York Centre for Asian Research. She is a Spoken Word artist who has been featured at Scream in High Park, Desh Pardesh and Masala Mendhi Masti, and whose poetry has been published in various anthologies. She has translated works by R. Cheran, V.I.S. Jayapalan, Puthuvai Ratnathurai, Rashmy, Kuna Kaviyazhakan and others. Her essays have been published in the International Journal of the Humanities, Global Tensions, Global Possibilities; Human Rights and the Arts: Essays on Global Asia; Studies in Canadian Literature and C Magazine. Her translation of Kuna Kaviyazhakan’s ‘Forest That Took Poison’ was shortlisted for the inaugural Global Humanities Translation Prize. She is the host of the bilingual, inclusive reading series ‘The Tam Fam Lit Jam’ in Toronto.


Excerpt: 

¬Though the event was really organized for political purposes, the compassion rising in our hearts and the hearts of the people who surrounded us with smiles and welcomed us with embraces, and the tears that welled up in our eyes, were expressions of true human feeling that cannot be closed off and hidden away. A hundred-year-old political enmity cannot be settled by one or two moments of connection like this. But human feelings of compassion must be shared beyond ethnicity, language and religion. If human beings developed such an expansive emotional maturity, the world would be a haven of calm and peace. But what can we do? When the arms dealers of the world release the white doves, peace flies away with them and disappears.


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