In Elephant Complex, travel writer John Gimlette ventures into Sri Lanka, a country only now emerging from twenty-six years of civil war. Beginning in the exuberant capital, Colombo, Gimlette ventures out in all directions: to the dry zones where the island’s 5,800 wild elephants congregate around ancient reservoirs; through cinnamon country with its Portuguese forts; to the “Bible Belt” of Buddhism; then up into Kandy, the country’s eccentric, aristocratic Shangri-la.
In the course of his journey, Gimlette meets farmers, war heroes, cricketers, terrorists, a former president, survivors of great massacres—and perhaps some of their perpetrators. That’s to say nothing of the island’s beguiling fauna: elephants, crocodiles, snakes, storks, and the greatest concentration of leopards on Earth. Here is a land of beauty and devastation, a place at once heavenly and hellish—all brought to vibrant, fascinating life here on the page.