Playing to the Western Gallery? Shehan Karunatilaka

A Simple Silva

Shehan’s intervention with his prize-winning book at the present juncture is significant. He states the obvious re corruption, cronyism and expresses thumps his bleeding heart for the suffering people of Sri Lanka (and YES, Shehan, do please gift the prize money of 50,000£ to the suffering masses in the island).

In an article published in the Financial Times, he laments that “I would like to write from a Tamil woman’s point of view. I mean, that would be calling in a lot of grief if I get it wrong”. (Financial Times) …. … ………………………………….

So, the suffering Sinhala and Islamic women are not significant (They too were mothers, sisters and wives who were shot and sliced by the LTTE) and suffered the loss of their loved ones! Who will write their story?

The tragedy and stories of the Tamil-speaking people have been chronicled by the Sri Lankan bleeding hearts and the diaspora. There are hardly any narratives of the similar fate suffered by many other Sri Lankans murdered by the LTTE (e. g. at the Central Bank, Sri Maha Bodhi and Arantalava massacres).

I was not surprised by the howl of appreciation from the audience when Shehan with difficulty uttered a few words in Tamil. It is a good thing to respect diversity, but quite obviously the audience seems to be packed with diaspora supporters! The timing is also perfect when Sri Lanka was nailed by the UNHRC for genocide crimes. It was paying the price for wiping out terrorism to protect the sovereignty of Sri Lanka. Those who were accusing us at the UN on the other hand had practiced 400 years of brutalized terrorism on its colonies.

Shehan has become a mouthpiece not so much of the brutality of the LTTE or the economic erosion the war created, but only of the negatives that resulted from the war and its debased form of governance. All things he listed on bad governance, cronyism, and corruption are well known and are studied. For this did he deserve an award? Of course, the lineage of Booker has a history of damage control. He only repeats the known popular sentiments by introducing the “gay” personality which are catch sentiments of the neo-liberal global community.

A recent article also questioned whether judges geo it right by selecting Shehan as the prize winner.

History of Booker Co born out of the slave trade slave driven sugar plantations (Wikipedia),of%20its%20fleet%20of%20ships.

The company was founded by George and Richard Booker in 1835, when they bought their first ship and established the Booker Line, which focused on shipping goods.[3] It later diversified into the distribution of goods, and gradually disposed of its fleet of ships. With a new focus on wholesale food distribution, the company had over 100 warehouses across the United Kingdom by 1978 and was trading as Booker McConnell Ltd.[4]

Among other interests, it operated the sugar industry in Guyana (British Guiana before independence in 1966), running five Booker Line ships, until it was nationalised around 1970. After six months, Booker was called back to market the sugar. Booker had a long history of exploitation of sugar workers through the indentured labour system during the 19th and 20th centuries (outright slavery was abolished in British Guiana before Booker’s founding, but exploitative labour practices continued. All of the Booker brothers had claimed and received ‘compensation’ payments for their post-1815 Guiana slave holdings – see U.C.L. “Legacies of British Slave-ownership” index). At its peak, it controlled 75% of the sugar industry in British Guiana and was so powerful that a common joke was to refer to the country as “Booker’s Guiana”.,of%20its%20fleet%20of%20ships.

Booker became a subsidiary of Tesco

Tesco the mother company of Booker



SituationMap — January 2009


Filed under accountability, asylum-seekers, atrocities, authoritarian regimes, centre-periphery relations, charitable outreach, communal relations, cultural transmission, ethnicity, heritage, historical interpretation, landscape wondrous, life stories, LTTE, military strategy, patriotism, performance, politIcal discourse, power politics, self-reflexivity, Sinhala-Tamil Relations, slanted reportage, sri lankan society, Tamil civilians, Tamil migration, Tamil Tiger fighters, the imaginary and the real, trauma, travelogue, truth as casualty of war, unusual people, war reportage, world events & processes

3 responses to “Playing to the Western Gallery? Shehan Karunatilaka

  1. Another anonymous ‘critic’, with another aimless badly written ‘critique’. I could barely get through the rubbish in the first paragraph.

  2. sachisrikantha

    This is my simple answer to the question posed by ‘A simple Silva’ – ‘Who will write their story?, at the beginning of his critique of Shehan Karunatilaka’s work.
    Why not you, Mr. ‘A simple Silva’? What prevents you from providing the sufferings of Sinhalese and Islamic women in the civil war of the island?

  3. kris

    Another Sinhalese bitter about a fellow Sinhalese’s success! Has to be a problem with genetics – jana kachal!

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