South Asian literature is a mix of stunning creativity and poetic imaginations. DESIblitz recognises five remarkable Sri Lankan fictional writers in English.
"She is just a woman who life has made different. This is her strange way of trying to love you."
Sri Lanka, a country of mystic traditions, claims a 92 per cent literacy rate, the highest in South Asia and amid the highest in Asia.
Sri Lankan literature has been enriched and enhanced by folklore, Sinhalese, Tamil, Portuguese, Arabic, and English cultures.
The country has been a home to many renowned writers of numerous genres. We at DESIblitz are all set to take you on this timeless journey of exploring Sri Lankan literature.
Here are our top 5 Sri Lankan novelists in English.
Punyakante Wijenaike is known for her unique style of simple yet intense narrations.
She has published six novels and four collections of short stories, with more than 100 stories published in newspapers, journals and anthologies locally and globally.
She focuses on the hardships and struggles of village life. Her 1998 novel, An Enemy Within, uncovers ‘the masks that tend to hide the reality of present times’.
The Gratiaen Award for her novel Amulet in 1994 was significant among her achievements.
“This is terrible, I feel betrayed, destroyed. Why can’t you remain a silent listener; please understand I did not create you willingly. Father created you within me. You are his grandchild, not my child.” – Anoma
Nihal de Silva
The Road From Elephant Pass is a novel by Nihal de Silva, and won the 2003 Gratiaen Prize for creative writing in English.
Nihal’s novel The Far Spent Day built on political exploitation. The Giniralla Conspiracy, another novel, is a captivating story about the raging culture prevailing in Sri Lankan Universities.
The simplicity of his writing style and the tapping of the humanistic side is distinctive. Nihal was a wildlife fanatic and this zest can be seen in each of his works.
Unfortunately in 2006 he was killed by a landmine explosion at the Wilpattu National Park, Sri Lanka.
“The sound of rustling newspapers woke me from an exhausted sleep. There was just enough light to see Velaithan gather her clothes and leave the room.”
“I knew she had gone down to the stream and wouldn’t want me around. I dozed off and woke again when she returned.” – The Road From Elephant Pass
Sri Lankan author Shyam Selvadurai’s first novel Funny Boy, a coming of age story, won the ‘Books in Canada First Novel Award’ and the Lambda Literary Award for gay male fiction.
Selvadurai was born to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father. The ethnic conflict between Sinhalese and Tamils has heavily influenced his writings.
His novel The Hungry Ghosts was shortlisted for the 2014 Toronto Book Awards. It is an absorbing story of a man and his mental struggle. Shivan Rassiah, gay and in his early thirties, plans to return from Canada to visit his dying grandmother in war-torn Sri Lanka.
Shyam’s Swimming in the Monsoon Sea, won the ‘Lambda Literary Award’ in the Children’s and Youth Literature category in 2006.
“She is just a woman who life has made different. This is her strange way of trying to love you.” – The Hungry Ghosts
Michael Ondaatje is a Sri Lankan born Canadian. His work includes fiction, autobiography, poetry and film. He has published 13 books of poetry, and has won voluminous awards for his works.
His novel, Anil’s Ghost, was the winner of the 2000 Giller Prize, the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize, and the Irish Times International Fiction Prize 2001.
His renowned novel, The English Patient, notably won the Booker Prize, the Canada Australia Prize, and the Governor General’s Award.
It was later adapted as a film, which won the Academy Award for the Best Picture in 1997. Michael Ondaatje is known for his distinctive writing style which he blends into both prose and poetry.
“Moments before sleep are when she feels most alive, leaping across fragments of the day, bringing each moment into the bed with her like a child with school books and pencils.” – The English Patient
Intriguing, spirited and strikingly original, Shehan Karunatilaka’s Chinaman is a novel about Sri Lanka and her love for cricket. It was hailed by the Gratiaen Prize judges as ‘one of the most imaginative works of contemporary Sri Lankan fiction’.
This irresistible work has been honoured with ‘Overall Commonwealth Book Prize’ and was also selected by British bookseller, Waterstones, as one of the top debuts of 2011.
His maiden novel, The Painter, was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize in 2000. Shehan’s writings showcase an original flair and a blend of absurdity, emotions, and powerful storylines.
“When a New Zealand journo, with a nose resembling the beak of his national bird, asked me why Lankans have long names, I told him I would rather have a long name than a long nose.” – Chinaman: The Legend of Pradeep Mathew
Sri Lankan literature is an arcane ocean. These selections of the country’s best fictional writers provide a brief glimpse into the vast talent puddle of Sri Lankan writings.
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