Category Archives: literary achievements

Steven Kemper on Anagarika Dharmapala: A New Study

Steven Kemper: Rescued from the Nation: Anagarika Dharmapala and the Buddhist World, University of Chicago Press,  2015

Anagarika Dharmapala is one of the most galvanizing figures in Sri Lanka’s recent turbulent history. He is widely regarded as the nationalist hero who saved the Sinhala people from cultural collapse and whose “protestant” reformation of Buddhism drove monks toward increased political involvement and ethnic confrontation. Yet as tied to Sri Lankan nationalism as Dharmapala is in popular memory, he spent the vast majority of his life abroad, engaging other concerns. In Rescued from the Nation, Steven Kemper reevaluates this important figure in the light of an unprecedented number of his writings, ones that paint a picture not of a nationalist zealot but of a spiritual seeker earnest in his pursuit of salvation.

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Felicitating English among Novices Through Literature

Sachitra Mahendra, in Daily News, 12 September 2017, where the title reads “Courage that Counts”

They wanted to speak English. Some of them could deliver well. But most of them could not, sadly. For them all – the newly chosen batch of undergraduates – the university offers a course with the English Language Teaching Unit (ELTU). But then these undergraduates were not interested in attending the course either. They were still required to pass the ELTU exam to be qualified for the degree completion. However excellent they may have scored in other subjects, they would not obtain the certificate without the ELTU green light. The fault is not theirs, according to Madhubhashini Disanayaka Ratnayake, who was the ELTU Head attached to the University of Sri Jayawardanapura.

 Pictures by Wasitha Patabendige

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Speaking of the Self: Gender Issues in South Asia

Niroshini Somasundaram, in IIAS Newsletter, reviewing A. Malhotra & S. Lambert-Hurley. 2015. Speaking of the self: gender, performance, and autobiography in South Asia. Durham: Duke University Press. ISBN 9780822359838

In the last few decades, scholars of South Asian history have disputed the notion that South Asian cultures do not possess the autonomous representation of the individual, particularly in documenting histories, compared to their European counterparts. To that end, the numerous ways in which self-representation has been practiced in this region in different forms and time periods have been increasingly explored in scholarship. The rich collection of essays in this volume, edited by Anshu Malhotra and Siobhan Lambert-Hurley, challenge the existing boundaries and discourses surrounding autobiography, performance and gender in South Asian history by presenting a varied and fresh selection of women’s autobiographical writing and practices from the seventeenth to mid-twentieth centuries. The compelling choice of authors explored in the essays include Urdu novelists, a Muslim prostitute in nineteenth century Punjab, a Mughal princess, a courtesan in the Hyderabad court and male actors who perform as female characters. It moreover challenges conventional narratives in the field of autobiographical studies by relaying in careful detail the different forms which ought to be encompassed within the genre of autobiography such as poetry, patronage of architecture and fiction. Continue reading

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Dissecting “Liberalism” and the Demons within Its Western Expressions

Uditha Devapriya, courtesy of Colombo Telegraph, August 2017 where the title is Liberalism: Getting Out While You Can”…….. and where this intriguing and thoughtful essay drew fewer comments than normal

In Jordan Peele’s intriguing film Get Out, a White American family lures Black Americans to their house to operate on and then (literally) insert into them the brains of old, disabled White Americans to guarantee immortality for the latter. What gets kicked out, of course, are the brains of the Black Americans (who needs to keep them once they’re no longer of use, anyway?). “Perfect metaphor,” I thought to myself, reflecting on the many instances in history when Black Westerners in general were contorted to become hosts for White Westerners. Incidentally I am not just talking about slavery, outdated or contemporary. I am talking also about liberalism.

 Gregory Peck in To Kill a Mocking Bird

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Honouring Sarath Amunugama through Essays in Home and The World”

Dhammika Amarasinghe, in The Island,  5 February 2011

The book mirrors the man. The man is Dr. Sarath Amunugama, eminent public servant of yester year, sociologist, scholar, writer, orator, poet, dramatist, connoisseur (of many things – including the fine arts) and at the end of his career, perhaps unfortunately – politician. The volume has been brought out by his ever-loyal daughters Ramanika and Varuni to celebrate their hero’s 70 years of ‘a full life’ (the title of another of their filial tributes in a different genre). The book is a festschrift in honour of Sarath Amunugama. The list of contributors reads almost like a Roll of Honour of contemporary Sri Lankan intellectual life, ranging as it does from Gananath Obeyesekere and Stanley J Tambiah through Siri Gunasinghe, J. B. Dissanayake and Carlo Fonseka to Jayantha Dhanapala, H. L. Seneviratne and Saman Kelegama (and many more of the same vintage). The standing of the contributors, almost all of whom are incidentally long-time friends and associates of Amunugama, and the wealth of high quality material encapsulated in this volume of 400 pages, makes the writing of a ‘review’ almost a daunting task. Therefore, what can be done is only to give some flavour of a selection of the contributions. The range of contributors mirrors not only the standing of the man being honoured but also the wide spectrum of his interests and accomplishments. Continue reading

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Wilfrid Jayasuriya and Sri Lankan Literature

VISIT http://www.srilankaliterature.com/

Sri Lankan Literature = Fiction, literary and historical studies, contemporary interactions. by Wilfrid Jayasuriya
Time Traveller
Sri Lanka’s Modern English Literature. A case Study in Literary Theory
The Libyan Episode
Christine’s Story (A Novel)
The British Diarie

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Recovering Lionel Wendt’s Virtuosity

Manel Fonseka, in The Sunday Times, 18 June 2017, where the title runs “Lionel Wendt: Recovery and dispersal” ….. http://www.sundaytimes.lk/170618/plus/lionel-wendt-recovery-and-dispersal-245924.html

When I first wrote about Lionel Wendt in 1994, the person and the artist seemed to be almost forgotten. Few visitors to the popular theatre and art gallery that bear his name had any idea who he was or were even curious about him. He had become like a personality behind a well-worn street name, familiar but unknown. It was as if he had disappeared along with his house, ‘Alborada’ (‘morning-song’ in Spanish) when the latter was demolished in 1950 for the present Wendt Memorial complex. Continue reading

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