Distancing Nation/Narratives
B. Mangalam
ZILLIJ by Ameena Hussein Perera Hussein Publishing House, 2007, 201 pp., 230
October 2007, volume 31, No 10

Ameena Hussein’s collection of short stories Zillij is an interest ing read that takes up disturbing issues without unduly disturb ing the reader’s mind over the said issues. It lives up to its name, for Zillij is a traditional art of creating a mosaic design using hand-cut tiles. Such a mosaic involves considerable intricacy, labour and artistry but you would merely applaud its brilliance and walk away over a pavement whose potholes would agitate you and disturb you or even energize you into action. And the Zillij pattern would turn into a fond memory splashed with vigour, brilliance and majesty. Hussein focuses more on her craft than on the causes she chooses to write about—identity, ethnic subjectivity, impact of terror on ordinary subjects, hardships of life as an immigrant, the Sinhala dream of making it big in the U.S., national history, folklore, fantasy, love, death—the canvas is immense but remains kaleidoscopic in its effect—colourful, varied, limited and fast-changing (or is it fading?).

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