The Ethics of Care in the No Fire Zone: Anuk Arudpragasam’s The Story of a Brief Marriage

  • Isabel Alonso-Breto Universitat de Barcelona


The ethics of care is a central element in the novel The Story of a Brief Marriage (2016), written by Anuk Arudpragasam in response to the slaughter which the Tamil community suffered in the final months of the Sri Lankan civil war in 2009. This article discusses the novel from this theoretical perspective, positing that care is played out as a strategy to enhance the jeopardised human condition of those involved. The narrative bears witness to the intense suffering of this community at a time when the situation was deadly for civilians, who were confined in the so-called “No Fire Zone.” Paradoxically, this area was systematically shelled, its conditions responding to what Achille Mbembe has described as necropolitics. In the midst of this horror, however, Arudpragasam’s novel finds a deeply moving ethics of care in people’s attitudes to one another, which signals a desperate attempt to keep the bereaved community together or at least maintain an essential sense of humanness. Care is also identified as intentio autoris since the novel becomes a powerful reminder of the huge toll of human lives and the immense pain that occurred in this dark episode, as well as the failure—or lack of interest—of the international community to intervene in order to save thousands of innocent lives.

Author Biography

Isabel Alonso-Breto, Universitat de Barcelona
Isabel Alonso-Breto is Senior Lecturer in postcolonial literatures and cultures at the University of Barcelona. A member of the research group “Ratnakara: Indian Ocean Literatures and Cultures,” she has worked on authors of Australian, Caribbean, Canadian, Indian, South-African, Sri Lankan and Tamil origin, and has edited several monographic issues of scholarly journals. She is also interested in creative writing and translation.


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