Galle Literary Festival 2008

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I attended the Galle Literary Festival (that there’s a link to the site, as are all the other colorful underlined words from here on out) here in Sri Lanka mostly because I really wanted to rub elbows with two of my favorite authors.


One author, Shyam Selvadurai , I first read when I departed from L.A. to move to Sri Lanka. My dear friend Aaron gave me his book Cinnamon Gardens as a going-away present, and over numerous readings it has given me greater and greater insight into Sri Lanka’s people and history. His other books, Funny Boy & Swimming in the Monsoon Sea continued my education. Shyam lives in Canada now. And I’m laughing so hard because I’ve just told him I’m not a stalker and his answer was "Of course not, you’re too sweet" Aney, sweet, no?


The other author, Karen Roberts, was similarly educational. She gave me insight into the same important and divisive periods of time in Sri Lankan history as Shyam: when the British left 60 years ago with Flower Boy, and the Tamil riots of 1983 with July. Karen now lives in California, and we’ve been able to engage in a correspondence that I hope will continue.


Along with getting them to autograph my copies of their books, I offered them each a copy of mine. They were both kind enough to accept it, as was the only other author I gave a copy to, a Candian-Sri Lanka author I had only just discovered, Randy Boyagoda. (The banner at the edge of the stage is a quote from Sri Lankan resident Arthur C. Clarke that reads "The only way of discovering the limits of the possible is to venture a little way past them into the impossible". Cool, huh?)

I had only brought 3 copies of my book to give away, since I was attending as a fan and not for promotional purposes. 2 were for the authors I mentioned above, and one for the festival’s organizer, who had said I might be able to be involved next year. But I felt such a connection to so much of what Randy said in his accent that sounded like mine, I really wanted to give my last copy to him. So I did.

You can read a bit of the panel’s discussion on "Longing and Belonging" here:

I could describe the town of Galle to you now, but since I included a description in my book, I’ll just paste an excerpt here and save my fingers a few extra thrusts on the keyboard:

…they walked around the large mossy stones of the seventeenth century Dutch Fort.

“It must be so peaceful because it’s a weekday,” Pravin noted.
“And it’s still morning,” Mara added, marveling at the grass that carpeted the expanses between walls. Climbing to a castellated plateau, their gaze was drawn to the lighthouse in the distance and the sea beyond the clock tower that continued to mark the time.
“Imagine what it must have looked like in its heyday,” Talal mused. “Did you know the Dutch built brick-lined underground sewers that got flushed by the tides twice a day?”
“Cousin,” Mara said, her hand on Talal’s shoulder, “you retain the oddest information. Interesting, but odd.”
“Some scholars believe it to be the Tarshish of the Old Testament,” Pravin said, trying to top Talal, “where King Solomon sent his merchant vessels, and where Jonah fled.”
“Reference to ancient Biblical lands,” Mara said, “now we’re getting somewhere.” They turned from the view to examine the fort itself. A posted sign in three languages read No Loitering or Bad Behavior.
“Consider me duly warned,” Mara said grimacing.
“Last time I was here, I shot a picture of a couple kissing beneath an umbrella next to that sign,” Pravin shared.
“Does that count as bad behavior? Or just loitering?” Talal asked.
“They must have added the sign once this place became a UNESCO World Heritage Site,” Pravin said….


Of course, my book has many descriptions of Sri Lanka that my friend Cecilia says "are not too touristy and at the same time, not too terroristy". Or something to that effect – listen to the radio interview (links are listed below if you scroll down) for her exact wording.

Ta ta for now, friends!

Categories: Behind the Scenes

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