Michael Roberts, 21 August 2011
Niromi de Soyza
I began reading de Soyza’s Tamil Tigress in a relaxed moment while at tennis and was captivated by its readability and the author’s capacity to create atmosphere. I was fascinated by its casting, that is, her skill in crafting the work. De Soysa begins with a striking incident where she is introduced to the world as a neophyte fighter in an incident marked as “Ambush” – where she is lucky to survive even while ten comrades, including platoon leader Muralie, perished. De Soysa then plunges her readers back in time by moving to her autobiographical family history and its various ethnic, intra-ethnic and caste tensions. Each chapter ends on a note of suspense and/or moment of change in life world, so that the readers are kept on their toes so to speak.
Tiger fighters — source unknown
Niromi de Soysa (generally a Sinhalese name) is a nom de plume – as she has indicated during radio interviews on ABC. She told Margaret Throsby that it was adopted in honour of Richard de Zoysa,[i] a TV personality who was murdered by state agents during the Premadasa regime. She herself is a child of a love marriage between a Jaffna Tamil gentleman from the north and a lady from a merchant family from the Malaiyaha Tamil (that is Indian Tamil) peoples of the central regions of Lanka, a cross-community connection that created intra-familial tension according to her autobiographical account. This was a Catholic family, a background that is of considerable significance in the story line because she tells us she attended a Catholic school inJaffna and then again inIndia after she managed to secure her release from the ranks of the LTTE at some point in 1988.
I have yet to finish reading the work. I am, thus, literally suspended in mid-air, wondering whether this work, cast as a true autobiographical tale, is a documentary novel or a fiction. My questions arose in part from two minor little tale-tale slips in local parlance and in part from a major error in historical detail.
Arun Ambalavanar now tells us that it is strewn with fake “accents” in its presentation of Jaffna society, slips exacerbated further by discrepancies in its story line on events around the LTTE in the mid-1980s. So, Ambalavānar argues, we should consider it to be a fabricated story.
If this allegation holds up in subsequent months, we should marvel at the lady’s audacity because she has conducted several high-profile interviews with such personalities as Philip Adams and Margaret Throsby, carrying herself with great composure and authority. If it turns out that she has taken highbrow people for a ride, she could stand on the same pedestal as Helen Darville who is better known under her nom de plume as Helen Demidenko. For those uninitiated, let me observe that the Brisbane lass, Demidenko, fooled famous literary personnel in Australiainto treating her story of a Ukrainian family during the Holocaust of the Second World War as a non-fiction worthy of a literary prize … till she fell from grace when her evasions and lies bubbled to the surface.[ii]
Doubts: But what aroused my own queries? Two little things nagged me initially: one, on page 14 Niromi de Soyza refers parenthetically to arrack as “the local beer” — NOW, not even an ardent Sri Lankan lady teetotaller from any ethnic group could be that ignorant; two, she transliterates the leading Tamil caste’s name as “Vaelaalar” (page 26). One can certainly use two aa’s to indicate the long ā if one does not have access to diacritical marks [as in Vellālar or Vellāla]. But the formulation “Vae” for the first syllable is quite bizarre when it comes from any Sri Lankan Tamil. This could, admittedly, be a printing error; but few Tamils would miss such a blemish within such an important category in their life world.
These seeming errors are minutiae to be sure. But it is precisely such failures in “accent,” as he calls it, which leads Ambalavānar, a Jaffna Tamil writer himself, to doubt the authenticity of her background.
However, the more telling error is linked to her market pitch against Sri Lankan society and her implicit alliance with the Western media world in its consistent targeting of Sri Lankasince early 2009.[iii] This mistake can be introduced by noting that the verisimilitude in her book is constructed by the deployment of several photographs in one cluster in the middle. Apart from family photographs, she has several of Tiger leaders and fighters, including two girls, Dharshini and Theeba, who figure in her text. So too does Muralie, one of the platoon leaders involved in the ambush appear (with face hidden by Thileepan’s body) in a photograph of Thileepan fasting.
Thileepan (of Vellālar caste incidentally) was a senior Tiger leader and intellectual. His fast-unto-death in protest against the entry of the Indian Peace Keeping Force (IPKF) to Sri Lankain July/August 1987 was carried out in September 1987. It was not an idiosyncratic move, but an official one sponsored by the LTTE directorate.[iv] This protest was initiated after the Indian government under Rajiv Gandhi intervened during the middle months of 1987 to protect the Tamil people from what seemed to be a successful military offensive by the Sri Lankan state (GoSL) which threatened to defeat the LTTE and other militant Eelam forces in the Jaffna Peninsula. The imperial weight of the Indian state forced the Sri Lankan government’s hand and they accepted the Indo-Lanka Accord in late July 1987.
Rajiv Gandhi, JR Jayewardene and officials at media briefing re Indo-Lanka accord – Pic from Lake House
This agreement permitted the Indian state to send troops to the island’s north and east in order to keep the peace. The striking dilution of the island’s sovereignty aroused considerable anger in the southern regions, but was welcomed by many people in the Jaffna Peninsula. The LTTE had acquiesced in this intervention quite reluctantly because their arms were twisted while Pirapāharan was kept in virtual detention at the Ashok Hotel in Delhi. Unlike the other militant groups, the LTTE leadership was aware of India’s imperial designs. While the people of Jaffnawelcomed the arrival of the Indian troops in delirious rapture, Pirapāharan made a significant speech before a massive crowd at the grounds of Sudumalai Ammān Kovil on the 6th August which conveyed considerable reservations on his part.[v]
Massive crowd hears Pirapaharan speak– Pic from Lake House
Once the Tiger directorate took the decision to combat Indian occupation it is probable that Thileepan volunteered to be the sacrificial weapon through which to convert the Tamil people to the Tiger programme because he was a dedicated Eelamist who had a debilitating injury. His fast-unto-death in the ground adjacent to the symbolic NallurTemplein the heart of Jaffnatown was a uyirayutham (life-gifted-as-weapon) of dramatic character. He died on the 26th September after several weeks of fasting. Large crowds had assembled around Nallur Temple during this intense period, while currents of emotion circulated along the Tamil circuits in Sri Lanka and the far-flung diasporic networks in all parts of the world. Through the anguish generated by his death, in one prolonged and dramatic stroke the LTTE turned most of the Sri Lankan Tamil people against the Indian intervention. The IPKF were now seen as an “occupation force.” The LTTE war of liberation re-commenced. But now the immediate enemy was the IPKF because the Sri Lankan state forces in north and east remained confined to their barracks.
Indian troops on guard–Pic courtesy of Frontline
Thus, from October 1987 or so the LTTE moved into the guerrilla mode of resistance and centred their high command within the jungles of Mullaitivu in the northern Vanni, while maintaining underground activity in the JaffnaPeninsula. These details are supplied here to indicate that the “Ambush” that is described in graphic detail by de Soyza in Chapter One must have entailed an encounter with Indian troops. The enemy is not a named in this account. They are just “soldiers.” However, all the blurbs advertising the book state that “two days before Christmas 1987, at the age of 17, Niromi de Soyza found herself in an ambush as part of a small platoon of militant Tamil Tigers fighting the government forces that was to engulf Sri Lanka for decades.”[vi]
The “Ambush” is clearly designed to provide a dramatic start and the blurb underlines the pathos by stressing Niromi’s youthfulness and placing the encounter just prior to the natal day of Jesus Christ. But why obscure the presence of the IPKF, if, indeed, this event occurred?
One speculative answer would be that any indication that the early fighting encounters of Niromi de Soyza were against Indian troops would complicate the story. Further, that in a context when the Western media was verbally thrashing the Sri Lankan state, and where some articulate elements in Australia society, from Gordon Weiss[vii] to Bruce Haigh to David Feith to Damien Kingsbury to several journalists, have been in de facto alliance or in affinity with the LTTE lobby, it would be poor market sense to highlight the fact that her experience of fighting was against the Indians. Battle-experience in teenage days could highlight bravery in innocence; but it would be best to depict the OGRE as the contemporary “Bad Boy,” that dirty state of Sri Lanka under the Rajapaksas. Rajiv Gandhi’s India would not be as effective an enemy for any sales pitch in a market indulging in Sri Lanka bashing, with a touch of “churnalism” here and there.[viii]
The IPKF forces are not entirely obliterated. She refers to them in passing during her interview with Throsby and the IPKF appears in the last chapter entitled “Afterwards.”[ix] At this point and during her Throsby interview, there are some severe strictures cast against the LTTE, but it is clear where Niromi de Soyza’s sympathies lie. The concluding pages are straight out of the propaganda package drafted by the Global Tamil Forum that has become part of the hardened beliefs of a whole spectrum of migrant Tamils in their condition of emotional turmoil. Some statements, such as the note that “journalists and politicians–both Sinhala and Tamil—have become victims of government thuggery,” carry some validity;[x] but others are misleading. For someone in late 2010 or early 2011 to state that “some 100,000 Tamils displaced by the war … were held against their will in behind concentration camps where they endure primitive conditions” (page 303) and to assert that “Sri Lanka remains a very dangerous place not only for Tamil but for anyone who openly criticises the government’s anti-democratic stance” (p. 303) is a combination of malicious slander and exaggeration.
This line of propaganda was also pressed during de Soyza’s ABC interview with Throsby. Sri Lanka today is a place permeated by “silence” because “there is no free speech” and “the Tamils are continuously oppressed.” Such opinions are no doubt firmly held in several Tamil quarters in Australia and elsewhere. The work of the Tamil spokespersons worldwide has also convinced many educated persons in the West – to the point where Margaret Throsby tells her listeners that during the last stages of the war in 2009 “40,000 civilians might have been massacred.”
Setting up field hospital April 2009–Pics from Dr. Donnie Woodyard
First clinics in open air in April 2009
Perhaps it is too much to expect the morality that impels such personnel to present these criticisms to have encouraged them to probe further by consulting Tamil personnel in Australia and Sri Lanka with some knowledge of local conditions over time. My brief visit to Vavuniya and Jaffna in June 2010 was an eye-opener.[xi] The welfare work undertaken by such NGO’s as SEED, Sewalanka, Caritas, et cetera in both the IDP camps and the northern reaches was a lesson in humility for those, like me, who live by pen rather than deed. If only people like Philip Adams would consult such persons as Singham, Annet Royce, Thamilalagan
Telephone booths being utilised by Tamil refugees in detention centre–source pro-govt of course
and Kesavan out there delivering aid in the boondocks rather than relying on NGOs cloistered in Colombo or disaffected migrant spokespersons for their “facts,”Sri Lanka could move forward. They would, for instance, find that Niromi de Zoyza’s picture of the IDP camps was largely a figment of the imagination.
As it happens, I have just received an unsolicited note from a Lankan Australia who has just returned from aid work he has been directing in Mannar District. Jeremy Liyanage’s report was succinct: we “ran five focus groups — four with Tamils and one with Muslims, all in Mannar. The story is now consistent over three separate periods of interviews over the past 12 months, that people are conflict saturated, that they don’t want the Tamil diaspora to speak on their behalf, that the eelam project is a failed project, and that they want a united single Sri Lanka but with conditions (equality of opportunity and outcome).”[xii] This concise assessment, I stress, is for one district and should not be blindly extended to the Tamil people in other localities. It is nevertheless a suggestive pointer for the northern regions in general.
All this, therefore, indicates where de Soyza is coming from and whom she moving with. However, the veracity of her purported autobiography is now sharply undermined by the exegesis provided by a Jaffna Tamil who is himself a literary figure. Ambalavanar discloses her profound unfamiliarity with local landscape and Tamil argot.
The plot has thickened has it not! Time will reveal whether Niromi de Soysa has emulated Helen Demidenko (alias Helen Darville). When Demidenko’s The Hand That Signed the Paper appeared in print under the masthead of Allen and Unwin in 1994, the editorial staff believed that it was essentially autobiographical, though they persuaded the author to alter the family’s name in the book to “Kovalenko.”[xiii] The Hand That Signed the Paper won the Vogel Award for a first novel in 1994, which was followed in 1995 by the most prestigious literary prize inAustralia, the Miles Franklin Award, as well as the Gold Medal of the Association for the Study of Australian Literature. When it was subsequently discovered that Demidenko had no Ukrainian background, a literary storm erupted. This furore was further exacerbated by Darville’s continued evasions as well as her manifest anti-Semitic prejudices.
Literary evaluations are fraught with disagreement. The Universityof Queenslandhad rejected Demidenko’s manuscript[xiv] in early 1993 and Mike Morley refused to review The Hand That Signed the Paper because he found it so awful.[xv] Niromi de Soyza’s mining of the highbrow airwaves seems to be facilitated by media personnel whose roller-coaster engagements do not encourage them to attend to their homework. While one could expect some ignorance of local Sri Lankan context from Margaret Throsby, her degree of ignorance and the naivete directing some questions left me gobsmacked. Arun Ambalavanar has now cast a cat among these media pigeons and planted a bomb in the basement of Allen and Unwin. But if Demidenko did not sink the good ship Allen & Unwin I doubt if Ambalavanar’s aspersions on the Tamil Tigress can either.
[i] Sinhala is phonetic and the name “de Zoysa” would be spelt in the same way, but the rise of English enabled families to distinguish themselves through different spelling. “De Soysa” usually denotes people from the Karāva or Durāva caste, while “De Zoysa” usually indicates someone from the Salāgama caste [with the s or z in the ending being interchangeable].
[ii] Lynne Malcolm, “Whatever happened to Helen Demidenko?” http://www.abc.net.au/rn/ allinthemind/stories/2006/1622778.html.
[iii] padraigcolman, “Channel 4 News and Sri Lankan War Crimes,”
[iv] Reviews of the factors promoting Tamil resistance can be found in books by Neil de Votta, Lakshmanan Sabaratnam, and numerous others. My readings and other pertinent processes can be found in Roberts, “The Tamil Movement for Eelam,” in Fire and Storm. Essays in Sri Lankan Politics, 2010, pp. 203-18]; Roberts, “Saivite Symbolism, Sacrifice and Tamil Tiger Rites,” Social Analysis 2005, 49: 67-93; and “Pragmatic Action & Enchanted Worlds: A Black Tiger Rite of Commemoration,” Social Analysis 2006, 50: 73-102.
[v] My information on this event was assisted by conversations with Daya Somasundaram and an email note from PK Balachandran the Indian journalist. Both were present at this momentous occasion.
[vi] This is part of the BLURB on the back cover of the book as well as notices on web presented by the publishers Allen and Unwin (see http://books.google.com/books/about/Tamil_Tigress. html?id=XQdukyYkdBcC).
[vii] Note that Gordon Weiss introduced the book for Glee Books inSydney (http://www.au.timeout. com/ sydney/books/events/26193/niromi-de-soyza-in-conversation-with-gordon-weiss). Again, the Allen & Unwin headline, “Niromi de Soyza’s amazing autobiography” is listed in the Weiss website (http://www.gordonweissauthor.com/links.html).
[viii] “The churnalism technique is [to present] cumulative unsubstantiated allegations” and thus to build up a “critical mass” that has a persuasive impact because of seeming corroboration from multiple sources. See Padraigcolman, “Evaluating the “’Churnalism from Channel 4 and the Moon Panel,” http://thuppahis.com/2011/08/17/a-credible-evaluation-of-%e2%80%9c churnalism%e2%80%9d-from-channel-4-and-the-moon-panel.
[ix] “It is said that some 5000 Tamil civilians were killed by the IPKF” (page 300).
http://www.bbc.co.uk/sinhala/news/story/2009/07/090722_jds_journalists.shtml; and also Roberts, “The Rajapaksa Regime and the Fourth Estate,” in http://www.groundviews.org, 8 December 2009.
[xi] Roberts, “Omantahi! Omanthai! Succour for the Tamil Thousands,” in http://transcurrents. com/tc/2010/08/omanthai_omanthai_succour_for.html and Roberts, “Aussies swallow lies and Rajapaksas miss a trick,” in http://thuppahis.com/2010/10/31/aussies-swallow-lies-rajapakses-miss-a-trick/
[xii] Email dated 20 August 2011. Liyanage is of Sinhala-Burgher mix and is Australian educated. He is t a key figure in the cross-ethnic group called Diaspora Lanka Ltd which runs the welfare work in Mannar.
[xiii] “As a result of her discussions with Allen & Unwin, the author changed the names in the book from “Demidenko” to “Kovalenko” and also altered her author’s note to say: “What follows is a work of fiction. The Kovalenko family depicted in this novel has no counterpart in reality” (Malcolm Knox, “The Darville made me do it,” in the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 July 2005 – see http://www.smh.com.au/news/books/the-darville-made-me-do-it/2005/07/08/1120704550613.html.
[xiv] Malcolm Knox, “The Darville made me do it,”Ibid.
[xv] Personal communication on the tennis field. Morley was then a Professor of Drama at Flinders University and continues to review theatre productions as well as books.
22 responses to “Another Demidenko? Niromi de Soyza as a Tiger Fighter”
Excellent analysis. Thanks for the mention Michael. Check this out: for further examples of a tin ear about Sri Lanka.
The most glaring discrepancy in her communications is this. She honestly does not seem to know that between late 1987 and 1988 (her tigress tenure according to her) the LTTE had nothing to do with Government Forces at all. They were fighting the IPKF and the EPRLF citizen army thingy trained by IPKF.
A tigress neophyte who started fighting in the later part of 1987 (when she was 17) and was out of the LTTE as well as SL by 1988 (by the time she was 18) would have no story to tell about how the GOSL conducted the war and thus have no valid contribution to make to the present dance and song about GOSL war crimes. The only thing she can do is start a brand new song and dance about how the Indians fought in SL while the SL Army stayed in barracks.
Instead she says in her interview with Margaret Throsby (towards the end)
“In 2009 when the war had ended in Sri Lanka and Tamil refugees were still arriving in Australian Shores by the boat and there was a complete misunderstanding , everyone labeling them as economic refugees …because the war had ended. But I knew different. So I thought somebody has to say something… At that time the UN panel report wasn’t there, the four corners documentary hadn’t been shown and…so I thought I needed to put this story out …despite the fact I didn’t want to..I felt there was a need . ”
And just before Margaret Throsby invites us to listen to this ‘Beeeeeautehfull song from a beeeeautehfull film’ selected by Niromi for our entertainment she leads Niromi (all unwittingly) to utter the most entertaining sound bite of the whole segment, perhaps of Niromi’s whole career, perhaps more entertaining than any written or verbal communication made by Demidenko when she was going strong.
“Were you able to watch the four corners documentary?
“I watched it. I forced myself to watch it… It distressed the whole time….I couldn’t sleep that night. At the same time it wasn’t new… This was something that I knew had happened…I mean I had witnessed much of it and I knew that when the Tamil tigers were caught by the soldiers those things would happen they would be shot in the head, raped, tortured all of those things …It was nothing new. ”
I think when she set out to write this she imagined a setting where the IPKF and the GOSL had somehow fought together or maybe the IPKF was a reinforcement force brought to strengthen the GOSL forces and which fought with the SL army under their direction. I suggest that up to now no one in her circle has been able to correct her and stop her making a spectacle of herself like this because they themselves do not know. That little but vital fact that the GOSL forces were inactive and that the IPKF fought under the Indian directives and even trained and armed the EPRLF without the GOSL’s approval may be a fact unknown to most in the West. After all even though the ICT revolution is supposed to have swept the world and turned it into a village, the information flow seems to be mostly one way. Thus while we may know about Margeret Throsby’s velvet throat, Margeret Throsby may even think we are cannibals here.
I don’t even want to start on Niromi’s SL history lesson to Throsby given at the beginning (we came here together around 3/2 century BC they ruled these areas and we ruled those areas but the Brits gave all areas to them and went) because after all that’s the version currently put out even by HE the SL Ambassador to France, Dr. Dayan Jayatilleke.
Since you have admitted that you haven’t finished the book yet and relied partly on Arun Ambalavanar “great discovery” to add strength to your argument on this article, it seems to us that you are trying to ride on Niromi’s excellent media popularity in Australia, in the same way as Arun Ambalavanar.
Living in Sydney for more 18 years, I never heard of this writer – Arun Ambalavanar and the google search tells me that his only great contribution to writing is on this book “review”.
What the real agenda here?
James – Michael could have got away with avoiding admitting he hadn’t finished it. I haven’t even started the book. Have you? What do you think of it? should I read it?
When I delved into the Tamil Tigress I perceived what I consider to be a FOUNDATIONAL ERROR in the blurb depicting the context of her guerrilla battles – a claim repeated in the cyber advertisements from several bookshops. This reservation was not assuaged in my quick listening to her podcast.
My copy of the book had been borrowed by a friend but the appearance of a critical article by a dinky-die Jaffna Tamil strengthened my doubts about the authenticity of Niromi’s claims and instigated me to present a review asking for a jury to be set up. In short I had not, THEN, proceeded to a definitive verdict, but considered that there was a prima facie case.
NOW that case has been fortified by Darshanie Ratnawalli’s intervention [below] with chapter and verse quotations from the Niromi de Soyza’s interview with Throsby. This data indicates that Niromi continues to “operate] under the impression that the GOSL was an active adversary of the LTTE” in late 1987 and 1988. We Sri Lankans all know that the SL state forces were confined to barracks in the north and east from circa October 1987 till late 1989/early 1990. BUT, of course, Australians, and even the Aussie media personnel [Lord be praised], do not have the faintest idea about the character and temporal stages of the Eelam wars.
Your comment imputes that Ambalavanar is jealous about Niromi’s media popularity. Such a suggestion says more about James Guanratnam than Ambalavanar. This is an ad hominem attack, playing of man rather than ball. [In my soccer playing days I hated such footballers with a passion]. It is a basic principle in analysis that one must evaluate any essay from its content rather than the credentials of a writer. I did that with Ambalavanar – though, clearly, I took him more seriously than I would a Sinhalese or Aussie. So his Tamilness was pertinent, but not an overwhelming yardstick. His background as a poet, incidentally, was suggestive because poets are attuned to landscape and ethos [whether their poetry is good, bad or indifferent].
That said, it was the detail and specificity of Ambalavanar’s material that pushed me towards my prima facie case … built as it was on what I treat as a foundational error. Can you discount any of the specifics in the Ambalavanar article? Please do so here or in the posting in thuppahi of his article.
Secondly, can you provide all of us with proof that Niromi de Soyza was aware that the LTTE in her time only fought the IPKF in its ground campaign. Better still, why doesn’t the Tamil lobby provide bio-data that legitimizes her claims? She is not in any danger from assassination by SL Navy seals or extradition through judicial processes. From her own account she was an unimportant cog in the LTTE liberation war.
The jury is still out, but the prosecution case is now stronger. However, Allen & Unwin are laughing all the way to its bank. We are helping them!
Insofar as you raise questions about my AGENDA and Ambalavanar’s, what is yours? Two can play that game! Indeed, such charges and games can go on interminably to harden polarization. That sort of accusation and counter-accusation was one factor, amidst a host of factors, including serious shortcomings within the particular democratic order in Sri Lanka 1948-1983 and major blemishes in the majoritarian Sinhala mindset, which generated the polarization between the two principal communities in the SL dispensation. Indeed, I lost hope between 1973 and 1976 because of experiential readings of such processes and analytical reflections while at Peradeniya University in 1966-1975. However, that is incidental to this particular debate.
Oh my God …she actually says at some point after Illayaraja’s song
“…when I joined, the Indian forces had arrived and the tigers had chosen to fight the Indian forces as well as the Sri Lankan forces”
There’s still more evidence that she is operating under the impression that the GOSL was an active adversary of the LTTE at that time. In response to ‘What brought you to Australia?” she says “……..I knew when I left the tigers that the government will be looking for me. They were looking for me already. So I was fortunate enough to leave the country…”
Where can I comment on Jupp? I want to say this:
‘Weiss concludes, after an assessment of ”multiple confirmations from different army sources, senior and lower-ranking officers and enlisted men” that the Tigers’ leadership group, including wives and children, was massacred in cold blood after negotiating a surrender.”
Was it not true that Prabhakaran’s parent were cared for and given medical treatment and a pension by the Sri Lankan government? Did not the wife of Soosai, leader of the Sea Tigers, say that the government had treated her and her children well? Have not thousands of former LTTE cadres been rehabilitated and found jobs? Have not hundreds of former child soldiers not been educated and given therapy?”
JUPP’s review can be found in http://aap.newscentre.com.au/acci/110706/library/education_3/26050902.html. I doubt if he would be dipping into my website though he has recently been sent my article on his review. I will convey his email to you by other paths.
BUT let me stress that even those Aussies who attend to Sri Lankan affairs in intermittent fashion are not likely to devote much time to pursuing issues in detail. Jupp is ana cademci and may do so. BMedai personnel rarely seem to have the time or inclination to probe at depth. hippety hop hippety hop is their dialy movment — or so i speculate. By way of illustration Arun Ambalavanar was simply dsmissed out of hand when he presened his views to some journalsits in Sydney
hippety hop hippety hop indeed. In this sound-bite culture there is no time or room for rational discussion.
This reminds me of a thriller, Perfect Night, by one Peter Grimsdale in which the author perpetrates many howlers about Sri Lanka and generally displays a tin ear for what happens in the real world.
Peter Grimsdale, worked as a BBC TV documentary producer from 1980 and visited Sri Lanka in 1984 “to report on the uprising against the Tamils”. Perfect Night , was based on that experience. He later worked for Channel 4, with whose works Sri Lankans will be familiar, “where I was head of History, Religion and Features and indulged my passion for cars in several programme commissions”. He admits responsibility for being “in charge of Big Brother 3, the one that gave the world Jade Goody”. I don’t know whether that came under history or religion.
Matthew Lewin claimed in The Guardian that Grimsdale’s writing was “cliché-free”. The brilliantly strange Irish writer Flann O’Brien produced a “Catechism of Cliché”. “A unique compendium of all that is nauseating in contemporary writing. Compiled without regard to expense or the feelings of the public. A harrowing survey of sub-literature and all that is pseudo, mal-dicted and calloused in the underworld of print.”
Orwell wrote that a writer could shirk responsibility by throwing the “mind open and letting the ready-made phrases come crowding in. They will construct your sentences for you – even think your thoughts for you, to a certain extent – and at need they will perform the important service of partially concealing your meaning even from yourself. “
Clichés abound in Grimsdale.
More detail in my review of the book at:
Perfect Night is just fiction, just entertainment. I have no objection to a writer trying to make a few bob writing about Sri Lanka. I am concerned about the infantilising nature of delusion generally in the media, both in fiction and “reportage”. It gives me a queasy feeling when real and tragic events are served up as entertainment and little effort is made to get beyond simplistic stereotypes or to bother with accuracy.
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Where does she say that she fought the SL forces in the book? She always maintained that it was the IPKF.
Relying on Ambalavanar’s comments I don’t accept what he says and I being a Jaffna Tamil and had my primary and secondary education mostly in Jaffna I was able to understand the way of life, the cultural pattern, attitude and also the turmoil and confusion and conflict that was going on in the minds of every Tamil, especially the youngsters. This is very effectively reflected by Niromi and that alone is a proof of her involvement,.The counter argument by your friend Arun is mostly unacceptable as he lacks the local grasp and I wonder whether he lived there in Jaffna or was an occasional Yarl Devi visitor? He talks of Anandarajan, in fact it was the correct name of SJC principal who was murdered by the LTTE. Then where does she say that she was at SJC Jaffna? Nothing in the book at all. However, in the HSC and later the A/L classes there were a few girls in the science stream that I have personally verified. Arun the poet even talks of “sandwhich” in Jaffna. May be he has not eaten but many homes made sandwhiches and this person unfortunately mention that there was not even sandwhich bread available in Jaffna! So to his knoledge sandwhich bread is vital to make sandwhich….which is an utterly stupid statement.
In my view three of you including Muthu have jumped the gun and arrived at a conclusion prematurely wihout having all the facts in front of you or merely depending on others gossip columns. That is not a scientific evaluation at all. In your report you have already compared her with Helen Demidenko and if so with what motive.
Having read the book very slowly and digesting ever sentence and recalling the events with my past experiences I am more than statisfied that it was a wonderful book covering every aspect of Jaffna life, rights, wrongs and stupidity of the LTTE and the human struggle during the turbulant times. It is unfair to criticise her unless you three have concrete evidence in your hand. That is why some commented that it was an element of jealousy.
Wow, awesome blog layout! How long have you been blogging
for? you make blogging look easy. The overall look of your website is wonderful, as well as the content!
Vielen Danke. Sei Frohlich.
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