The Sara Saga


Manicasothy Saravanamuttu
2010. Areca Books
Hardcover. 22.3cm x 15.6cm, 292 pages 58 black & white illustrations.
ISBN 9789675719035


By Manicasothy Saravanamuttu.

Foreword by Malcolm MacDonald OM, PC.

The decades from the 1930s to the 1960s were hugely important in the making of modern Asia. They saw the tumultuous transition from colonial rule through the travails of war to the eventual attainment of independent nationhood. Manicasothy Saravanamuttu – ‘Sara’ to all and sundry – was a truly remarkable witness to and participant in these events. From his origins as the son of one of Ceylon’s most prominent political families this gripping memoir traces a remarkable journey: cricket-loving student at Oxford during the Great War, fearless editor of Penang’s English-language newspaper The Straits Echo, resilient internee during the Japanese Occupation, influential diplomat-at-large during the height of the Cold War, and trustworthy confidant to the great and the good. Written with great panache this revised edition of The Sara Saga offers a unique glimpse into history in the making. And more than this, it crystallises Sara’s singular character– a true ‘global soul’.

Editorial Reviews

‘This is a very pleasing book …. It draws a candid, full length, real life pen picture of its characterful author … [and] it describes many of the important historic events which have occurred … as seen through the eyes of an always shrewd observer of the drama.” Malcolm McDonald “Sara carved out a role for himself at the heart of Penang’s emergent multi-ethnic civil society. He lived his life across the ethnic lines which are often ruthlessly inscribed into other accounts of the period.” Kirsty Walker, Penang Economic Monthly

“A review can hardly do justice to this book as it overflows with pulsating vignettes from the life of an extraordinary human being” Arjuna Hulugalle, The Island (Canadian magazine which serves the Sri Lankan Diaspora)

About the Author Manicasothy Saravanamuttu was a legendary journalist and esteemed diplomat, and the editor of Penang’s The Straits Echo (1931–41 and 1945–47).

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations

vi Acknowledgements

viii Acknowledgements to the Original Edition

xi Foreword by Malcolm MacDonald

xiii Foreword to New Edition by Manicam Saravanamuttu and Johan Saravanamuttu

vx Preface


I Early Days 1

II At Oxford 17

III London Interlude 33

IV “The Old Lady of Baillie Street” 45

V Progress in Penang 55

VI Penang Personalities 79

VII War Breaks Out 99

VIII In Japanese Prison 119

IX Under Japanese Rule 135

X The Liberation 151

XI As Ceylon Commissioner 169

XII The Midnight Sun 185

XIII The Bandung Story 197

XIV Malayan Independence 213

XV Singapore’s Troubles 231

XVI Ceylon’s Full Cycle 247

XVII Three Score Years and Ten 253

Index 274

Click here to see pictures from the official book launch of The Sara Saga

Weight 550 g
Dimensions 22.3 × 15.6 × 2.1 cm


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