What attracts us to novels by Sri Lankan authors is maybe the patriotism in us Lankans but what keeps us coming back for more is the inherent power of storytelling and the relatability that tugs on our heartstrings. The penmanship of Sri Lankan authors is unique in its humour and language; creatively encapsulating the culture and essence of Sri Lanka.
Here are a few novels (in no particular order) that are must-reads for those who want to learn more about Sri Lanka and its stories of love and war.
A story set in the context of the civil war, Island of Thousand Mirrors reflects the culture, deeply set family bounds and heartbreaking conflicts. The story is in the voices of two young women of opposing sides of the civil war: Saraswathie and Yasodara and their heartbreaking narrative that revealed the story of Sri Lanka in its darkest hour. Nayomi Munaweera’s debut novel, Island of A Thousand Mirrors won the Commonwealth Book Prize for Asia for its powerful imagery and revelation of the horrifying truths of the three-decade civil war.
The story of an alcoholic journalist pursuing the story of the cricket legend, Pradeep Mathews who had mysteriously disappeared in the 1980s. Through the analogy of cricket, the author exposes the culture and society of contemporary Sri Lanka. The story unravels in a light and humorous narrative of Karunathilake in the voice of WG Karunasena. Chinaman is the winner of Commonwealth Book Prize - Asia in 2012, Gratiaen Prize in 2008 and the DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. This is a must-read, especially for those who know nothing of cricket!
The heartbreakingly beautiful memoir of Sonali Deraniyagala is a story of lost, yet lingering love of family. Sonali lost her family to the Tsunami in 2008 and Waves has been the catalyst for her healing since then. It is an exceptional book on grief that is the untold story of the many victims of Tsunami. This book is a definite tear-jerker for its spill of raw emotions. The New York Times listed Wave, the memoir as one of the top ten novels of 2013.
Arjie is a funny boy, dressing up in sarees at the age of 7. The coming-of-age novel unravels the story of Arjie, an affluent Tamil boy growing up as a homosexual in Sri Lanka and as it continues to explore the effects of lives of the Tamils in the backdrop of the civil war. It is a story that shows the journey of a vibrant childhood to adulthood with secrets, violence, injustices and the humane longings and desires that perseveres through. The novel was recently made into a motion picture and it is to be premiered in the near future. The novel is the winner for Lambda Literary Award for Gay Fiction.