Two Toronto-Based Writers Short-Listed For Top Literary Award In Sri Lanka
By Somasiri Munasinghe –
Two writers who share their time between Colombo and Toronto are on the short-list for the most prestigious annual literary award in Sri Lanka.
The prize, Swarna Pushthaka or the Golden Book, has included civil engineer-turned novelist Shamel Jayakody, journalist, author, poet, and short story writer Chandrarathna Bandara in the final five.
Jayakody, who began her career in 2008 after graduating from Moratuwa University in 1999, has authored 14 novels placing her at the forefront of the Sinhala women writers. Most of her books have become best sellers, with the record of being on the short-list for the Swarna Pushthaka award eight times, and her adorable fans everywhere keep their fingers crossed, hoping that she would this time break the jinx.
This year her Mage Chicago Hadawatha (My Chicago Heart) has been nominated for the award. The novel revolves around a boy adopted by a childless Sri Lankan couple in the US.
Jayakody uses her North American experience to portray the Sri Lankan immigrants living too far from their roots and facing unfamiliar cultural and social stigmas. Three of her earlier novels were based in North America, while her Pransha Pemwatha (French Lover) concentrated on the struggles Sri Lankan refugees face in Europe. A prolific writer, Jayakody, devotes her full time to writing, producing almost one book a year.
Her novel Veenasge Upatha (Birth of Venus) is being made into a television film in Sri Lanka.
For several weeks, Bandara’s sixth work of fiction, Premanishansha (Aftermath of Love), remained on Sri Lanka’s best-seller list, generating a buzz on social media.
He has authored eight novels, five collections of short stories, and six poetry books, in addition to seven non-fiction works. He won the State Literary Award for his debut Meru in 1990 and DR Wijewardene Prize for Vanasapumala, translated into English by Vijitha Fernando as Hostage City, and published with Canadian funds. The novel was translated into Tamil by S. Sivagurunathan.
Premanishansha is an epic novel about a third-generation descendant of a Sri Lankan Tamil scholar, mixing fact and fiction in equal measure to relive the glory of the island’s past through archeological discoveries and interactions between a young millennial couple of different ethnic roots. Bandara, who also dabbles in archeology, uses his real-life experience of participating in digs to portray the tender love story with the power to survive ethnic bigotry and prejudices.
His novel Wiman Dorakoda was made into a teledrama in Sri Lanka in the 90s.
Like Jayakody, Bandara also used his personal experience to pen a novel about Sri Lankans living in Canada titled Walakulu Bamma (Wall of Clouds) in 2015. It was in contention for the Swarnapushtaka award in the same year.
The other three works on the short-list are Kandy Mahal (Sunethra Rajakaurnanayake), Sandyanandaya (Keerthi Welisarage), and C+ (Surath de Mel). Rajakaurnanayake won a Swarna Pushataka award in 2009.
Some veteran writers like Mohan Raj Madawala, Sepali Mayadunne, Manohari Jayalath, Choolabhaya Shantha Kumara, Eric Illepparachchi, Manjula Senarathne and Deepthi Mangala Rajapakse were in the long list.
Judging by the reviews, quality of the works and the reputation of the writers, it is extremely difficult to guess a clear winner out of the five, but win or lose, Jayakody and Bandara have already created history by going one step ahead in the last lap.
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