"Set during Burma's military dictatorship of the mid--1990s, Karen
Connelly's exquisitely written and harshly realistic debut novel is
a hymn to human resilience and love."
In the sealed-off world of a vast Burmese prison known as the cage,
Teza languishes in solitary confinement seven years into a
twenty-year sentence. Arrested in 1988 for his involvement in mass
protests, he is the nation's most celebrated songwriter whose
resonant words and powerful voice pose an ongoing threat to the
state. Forced to catch lizards to supplement his meager rations,
Teza finds emotional and spiritual sustenance through memories and
Buddhist meditation. The tiniest creatures and things-a burrowing
ant, a copper-coloured spider, a fragment of newspaper within a
cheroot filter-help to connect him to life beyond the prison walls.
Even in isolation, Teza has a profound influence on the people
around him. His integrity and humour inspire Chit Naing, the senior
jailer, to find the courage to follow his conscience despite the
serious risks involved, while Teza's very existence challenges the
brutal authority of the junior jailer, perversely nicknamed
Handsome. Sein Yun, a gem smuggler and prison fixer, is his most
steady human contact, who finds delight in taking advantage of Teza
by cleverly tempting him into Handsome's web with the most
dangerous contraband of all: pen and paper.
Lastly, there's Little Brother, an orphan raised in the jail,
imprisoned by his own deprivation. Making his home in a tiny,
corrugated-metal shack, Little Brother stays alive by killing rats
and selling them to the inmates. As the political prisoner and the
young boy forge a cautious friendship, we learn that both
areprisoners of different orders; only one of them dreams of escape
and only one of them achieves it.
Barely able to speak, losing the battle of the flesh but winning
the battle of the spirit, Teza knows he has the power to
transfigure one small life, and to send a message of hope and
resistance out of the cage.
Shortlisted for both the Kiriyama Prize for Fiction and the IMPAC
Dublin Literary Award, The Lizard Cage has received rave reviews
nationally and internationally.
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