The Hungry Ghosts

The Hungry Ghosts

9781846592003 March 2016 Paperback 464pp

About the Book

In Buddhist myth, those that have desired too much during their lifetime may be reborn as ‘hungry ghosts’ – spirits with a stomach so large they can never be full.

Six-year-old Shivan is boarded up in his grandmother’s mansion in Sri Lanka. While civil unrest brews outside, Shivan is fighting small battles of his own: the matriarch of his mysterious family wants to groom him as heir to her vast and corrupt empire. Shivan stands helpless as she sidelines his mother and sister and evicts vulnerable families from their homes.

Unwilling to carry the burden of her expectations, Shivan escapes to the West. Yet ghosts will follow you across continents. As the years pass, and his sexuality gradually comes to light, events spiral out of control and threaten to separate Shivan from his family once and for all.

The Hungry Ghosts is an exquisite tale of differences and how they can tear apart both a country and the heart – not just once, but many times, until the ghosts are freed.

About the Author

Shyam Selvadurai was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1965 and moved to Canada with his family at the age of nineteen. He is the acclaimed author of Funny Boy, which was shortlisted for the Giller Prize and won the Books in Canada First Novel Award, Cinnamon Gardens and Swimming in the Monsoon Sea. The Hungry Ghosts (Telegram) was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award for Fiction and longlisted for the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. He lives in Toronto.


'An unsettling and moving account of a family – and a nation – at war with their own selves’
Tan Twan Eng

‘Unflinchingly insightful, Shyam Selvadurai’s new novel evokes the clashing manifestations of human desire and longing in two continents.’
Pankaj Mishra

‘A ravishing portrait’
Tash Aw

‘Tender and haunting’
Michelle de Kretser

‘Powerful and beautifully written … an incredibly courageous book’
Razia Iqbal