Sahitya Aaj Tak 2019: Writers from Sri Lanka speak about writing and identity

Three renowned writers from Sri Lanka, Romesh Gunasekara, Ashok Ferry and Chimmi Tenduf-La speaks about writing and Ashok Ferrey at a session titled: ‘Writings from Sri Lanka,’ on the sidelines of the second day of Sahitya Aaj Tak 2019 on November 2 in Delhi.

Romesh Gunesekera Chimmi Tenduf-La Ashok Ferrey at Sahitya Aajtak 2019 by India Todday Group in New Delhi.

Three renowned Sri Lankan authors attended second day of Sahitya Aaj Tak 2019, the annual literary festival in Delhi. Speaking at the session titled ‘Writings from Sri Lanka’, one of the novelists, author of the books Reef and Noontide Toll – Romesh Gunesekera said: “I never set out to write about conflict. Other than conflict you have in any personal situation. When my first books were being published, it happened to coincide with the time things started happening in Sri Lanka and I had some stories that were set there. I felt my fiction had to negotiate a reality that was changing in uncomfortable ways.”

When author Chimmi Tenduf-La was paried if he thought identity played a part in what he wrote, he said: “Due to the fact I am a foreigner, living in Sri Lanka for a very long time, I believe I can observe things in a way other people take for granted. My identity certainly makes it easier to write.”

Similarly, Romesh Gunesekera and author Ashok Ferrey spoke about their time they spent in other countries like the Philippines and Somalia which impacted their writing and identity.

On the changes seen in his readership from the years when Sri Lanka was hit by conflict to present, Romesh Gunesekera agreed with Ashok Ferrey that it was difficult to know who they were writing for.

“When I started writing, I came from an understanding of the world that nobody would probably read what you write. My expectations were very very low. They are not much higher even now, nevertheless, we need do build a sort of relationship with the readers,” the Reef author said.

Chimmi Tenduf-La agreed with Ashok Ferrey that back in the time when they started writing, stories about conflict could be full of humour, showing how the Sri Lankans perceived war but no people react to those things differently. Chimmi Tenduf-La added that the public’s reaction to the Easter attack in Sri Lanka was panic.”

“Furthermore, people writing stories now would be perceived it differently than the older times,” he added.