Many-sided enjoyment and new awareness

Book facts: Kaleidoscope: An Anthology of Sri Lankan English Literature, Volume 2 edited by D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke. Vijitha Yapa Publications. Price: Rs. 450

Just as Sri Lanka, an island with an area of 65,610 sq km offers infinite variety from hailstones and conifers in Nuwara Eliya to palms and blazing beaches in Negombo and Bentota, this anthology offers as wide a range of genres, styles, materials and moods to stimulate and entertain the reader.

There is stark contrast between the restrained yet poignant ‘Sisters in Dignity’ and the bizarre hilarious satire of ‘Maleeshya’. We have the touching fantasy of a lonely child and the harsh tragedy of a man who is an amalgam of two warring races.

‘The Visitor’ has something of the chill of Henry James’ ‘The Turn of the Screw’ where the focus is on the narrator of a supernatural tale. We see multiple aspects of the war – the terror, tension, hope and endurance of the relationships between places and people.

The section devoted to poetry has the virtue of accessibility and offers wit as well as profundity and sensuous pleasure, while the drama of ‘A Somewhat Mad and Grotesque Comedy’ with its black humour based on fratricide and socio-economic aspirations is perhaps a precognition of the later conflict.

The anthology offers the reader many-sided enjoyment as well as imparts a fresh awareness of Sri Lanka and its Literature in English.

D.C.R.A. Goonetilleke, Emeritus Professor of English, University of Kelaniya, Sri Lanka, was International Chairperson of the Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies (1993-97); Vice-President of the Fédération Internationale des Languages et Litératures Modernes (1993-99); Fellow Commoner, Churchill College, University of Cambridge; Foundation Visiting Fellow, Clare Hall, University of Cambridge; Henry Charles Chapman Visiting Fellow at the Institute of Commonwealth Studies, University of London; and Guest Professor of English at the University of Tubingen, Germany.

A well-established critic of twentieth-century and postcolonial literature, and the leading authority on Sri Lankan English literature, his books include Developing Countries in British Fiction (1977), Images of the Raj: South Asia in the Literature of Empire (1988), Joseph Conrad: Beyond Culture and Background (1990), Salman Rushdie (1998), all published by Macmillan (London); Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness (London: Routledge, 2007) and Sri Lankan English Literature and the Sri Lankan People 1917-2003 (2005, 2nd edn. 2007). He has edited Joseph Conrad: Heart of Darkness (Canada:

Broadview Press, 1995, 2nd edn. 1999, reprinted 2007), The Penguin New Writing in Sri Lanka (1992), The Penguin Book of Modern Sri Lankan Stories (1996) and Kaleidoscope: An Anthology of Sri Lankan English Literature (2007). The 2nd edition of Salman Rushdie (London & New York: Palgrave Macmillan) appeared in 2009.

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