Susheila Nasta leading the discussion with Romesh Gunesekera.
The One on One with Romesh Gunesekera, renowned Sri Lankan writer, took place at 10 am at the NGC Bocas Lit Fest while the minds of the audience were fresh and ready for another day in the festival of ideas. This writer, the first Sri Lankan in the history of Bocas, tied together the highlights of his writings and created unique links to the Caribbean. He spoke of his acclaimed novel, The Reef and the idea that just as an island has many places contained in one so too is a book one collection of many ideas. Through the power relationship between the bachelor and his servant in the novel, themes such as balance and dependency were used to mirror the political situation in Sri Lanka in the late 1900s.
Romesh Gunesekera reads an excerpt from The Reef
Gunesekera joked that he always liked writing about topics which did not require much research and admitted that at the time of writing the novel he had never seen a reef but did ample research. For me, this solidified the idea that oftentimes writers step outside themselves to be the voice that society needs to hear and the medium to articulate what may otherwise be left unspoken. It is not hypocrisy but a literary skill to be praised.
He also spoke briefly of his novel, The Prisoner of Paradise. He chuckled while saying that he intended for it to have a happy ending but instead it turned out to be a mixture of tragedy, love and comedy. As he moved on to talk about The Match , the session began to resemble the quintessential plot with this novel being the climax. Gunesekera described how the spectacle and performance of a game of cricket was metaphorically important in demonstrating the violent nature of humans during the Sri Lankan civil war. He stated that in understanding that, we will recognise why the world is the way that it is. It is a book which many can appreciate both for its denotative and connotative meaning given our love for cricket in the Caribbean.
The denouement involved a discussion of his most recent work in the post war context. Writing had become extremely difficult for various reasons which Gunesekera summed up by stating, “There was a sense of required silence.” He mentioned that people didn’t want to or didn’t know how to speak of the war. The room was still as everyone seemed to recall an instance during which that phrase was undeniably true. Nonetheless, we do anticipate that this silence may be the calm before the storm of even greater works from this talented writer.