Media Center: ‘Tusk that Did the Damage’ by Tania James
WHO: Tania James
WHAT: THE TUSK THAT DID THE DAMAGE, a novel
WHEN: Published by Knopf March 10, 2015
WHERE: Set in India.
WHY: “An achingly tragic work of fiction.
“Wherever elephants roam, there are always opportunists ready to harm them for the perceived value of their tusks and tails. Most of the time, the animals are killed outright; sometimes they survive; and when they do, the wounds they carry transcend the physical.
“It is said that elephants never forget, and in James’ intense and unusual novel, one calf horribly wrenched from its mother is on a quest to avenge her death, a commitment that earns him the title of Gravedigger. When two American filmmakers arrive in South India to make a documentary about a charismatic veterinarian who works with these wounded giants, they find themselves immersed in the murky world of poachers and poverty, extortion and preservation.
“James establishes archetypes of the Poacher, the Filmmaker, and even the Elephant itself, then alternates among their various points of view, swaying ponderously between realms of lore, romance, and reality to create a heavily symbolic and achingly tragic work of fiction indicting the horrific ivory trade.” —Carol Haggas, BOOKLIST
James tells three intersecting stories involving a murderous elephant on the loos in an Indian jungle. Pat of the novel follows the elephant, Gravedigger, and does a stunning job evoking an animal’s sensory world…These sections also heartbreakingly capture the elephant’s terror and confusion in the face of human cruelty…This narrative is a tour de force.” —PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
From the beginning of the book:He would come to be called the Gravedigger. There would be other names: the Master Executioner, the Jackfruit Freak, the great Sooryamangalam Sreeganeshan. In his earliest days, his name was a sound only his kin could make in the hollows of their throats, and somewhere in his head, fathoms deep, he kept it close.