Gnanalingam, Brannavan

Gnanalingam, Brannavan


Primary publisher
Lawrence and Gibson
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Photo credit
Lucy Li

In Brief

Brannavan Gnanalingam is a writer, novelist, reviewer and lawyer based in Wellington. Brannavan has published seven novels, and other writing has been published in The Spinoff, Pantograph Punch, NZ Listener, the Lumière Reader, and more. His last three novels have all been longlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards, including the shortlisted Sprigs (2020) and Sodden Downstream (2017).

Brannavan Gnanalingam (1983 - ) is a Wellington-based novelist, as well as a practicing lawyer. He was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1983, and moved to Lower Hutt in 1986. He attended Victoria University from 2002-2008, where he gained a BA(Hons) in film and criminology, an MA and an LLB.

Brannavan has written seven novels; Getting Under Sail (2011), You Should Have Come Here When You Were Not Here (2013), Credit in the Straight World (2015), A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse (2017), Sodden Downstream (2018), Sprigs (2020) and Slow Down, You're Here (2022).

His first novel, Getting Under Sail was published in 2011 by Lawrence and Gibson. It is the story of three friends travelling overland from Morocco to Ghana, part travelogue, part picaresque and part confessional. The NZ Listener review of the novel commented that ‘The narrator’s wry honesty, miles away from the usual Africa travelogue clichés, and the inherent humour of the events are both lifted by Gnanalingam’s knack for the striking image’, and called it a ‘unique, beguiling effort’.

In 2017, A Briefcase, Two Pies and a Penthouse, a satirical take on the New Zealand intelligence community, was longlisted for the Acorn Foundation Prize at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards. A review from Bookseller’s NZ called it ‘a wickedly clever and very contemporary read from a promising Kiwi author’, and Tom Goulter at Wellingtonista said of it: ‘Well-turned and believable, this universe of cubicle-drones has a dozen different words for beige; and there’s real mastery in the way Gnanalingam weaves the story’s tragic threads through the sitcom-style office japery.’

Sodden Downstream (2017), was shortlisted for the Acorn Foundation Fiction Prize at the 2018 Ockham Book Awards. It charts the course of a single day in the life of Sita, a Tamil refugee from Sri Lanka, as she tries to journey from her home in Lower Hutt to her cleaning job in Wellington in the face of a ‘once in a century’ storm, so that her boss doesn’t terminate her contract. Sodden Downstream deals with inequality in Aotearoa, and the struggles of the working poor face in a world that too often has no sympathy for them. Therese Lloyd’s review in Pantograph Punch praised Brannavan’s ‘fierce sense of justice and a deep desire to expose the inequalities rife in New Zealand society’, and the NZ Herald called him ‘a distinctive, urgently relevant voice in New Zealand fiction’.

Sprigs (2020) examines privilege, wealth and boys' school rugby culture in a gripping, emotional novel. On RNZ, Kim Hill described it as “ a scarily contemporary and realistic story… [Part 4] is an extraordinary piece of writing, I must say.” Sprigs was shortlisted for the Jann Medlicott Acorn Foundation Prize for Fiction at the Ockham New Zealand Book Awards.

In 2022, Gnanalingham's Slow Down, You're Here was published by Lawrence and Gibson. In a review on Kete Books, Dionne Christian writes: "there is always satisfaction to be had from reading a book that starts off as one thing but defies expectations to turn into something else altogether. Brannavan Gnanalingam’s compelling seventh novel, Slow Down, You’re Here is this kind of book."

Outside of novels, he also contributes to the Spinoff, Dominion Post, NZ Listener, Pantograph Punch and Under the Radar, and was an arts writer at the Lumière Reader. He may one day write a novel about cricket.


Brannavan Gnanlingham at Lawrence and Gibson Publishing

Brannavan's Twitter

RNZ interview (Standing Room Only) (Sodden Downstream)

The Books That Formed My Childhood - Article at The Sapling

An Immigrant's Story - Article at The Spinoff

Review of Slow Down, You're Here

Updated August 2022.

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