The Sadness of Geography


The harrowing journey of a teenage refugee who never gave up on his dream of seeing his family again.

Born to a wealthy family in northern Sri Lanka, Logathasan Tharmathurai and his family lost everything during the long and brutal Sri Lankan Civil War.

In January 1985, at the age of eighteen, he left his home in a desperate bid to build a new life for himself and his family abroad after a deeply traumatic encounter with a group of Sinhalese soldiers. As his terrifying and often astonishing journey unfolds, he finds himself in a refugee camp, being smuggled across international borders, living with drug dealers, and imprisoned.

The Sadness of Geography is a moving story of innocence lost, the persecution of an entire people, and the universal quest for a better life.


Logathasan Tharmathurai’s heart-stopping memoir is an intimate portrait of a young man caught in the crosshairs of war. Beginning in northern Sri Lanka in the 1980s, a part of the country that was the locus of civil war and off-limits to most outsiders, Tharmathurai re-traces his steps as he makes a fraught and winding journey through the island, across Europe, and finally on to Canada. Along the way, he lays bare his complicated past: membership in the Tamil Tigers, false names and passports, and being smuggled across borders. The result is a rare and frank exploration of the risks and compromises people are forced to make in search of sanctuary.
For every cynic who has looked askance at refugee boats and migrant caravans, dismissed asylum-seekers as ‘illegals’ or ‘terrorists’, The Sadness of Geography is a direct and candid rebuttal. Part history lesson, part warning, Tharmathurai’s book about Sri Lanka’s brutal past offers important lessons for the present moment, our own here and now. These pages are essential reading for everyone.

Sharon Bala, bestselling author of The Boat People

[Tharmathurai] makes himself fully vulnerable to the reader and shares the story of his powerful journey in a deeply transparent way, pointing out that “hatred is a hard enemy to defeat”.

Canadian Immigrant Magazine

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