“In the room the women come and go / [t]alking of Michaelangelo”
– TS Eliot; The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock.
The good thing about Galle Lit Fest 2010 [proposed to be launched soon after the elections] is that it is dynamic and kicking. The list of “participants” put up at [places such as] Barefoot indicates that about 70-80% of them are “fresh faces” from last year’s stint and are ready to make a literary bash once things start to rock Down South. The Barefoot notice referred to above lists out the “writers” and their books, so that the Ephimeras of the fashionable Colombo-centric book and bite consuming world may do their groundwork prior to their annual literary orgy. The notice, by all means, is the Bedaeker to “what books one should” get hold of; if you’re to be a part of the “in crowd” at Galle this year.
Mine, I believe, is a committed prejudice. More than prejudice — I am being a brute to the fact that GLF 2010 is, on paper, a new show in an altogether new calendar year; featuring new people and new themes. Surely, GLF has shown some sensitivity to their early shortcomings and given a heave at improving things? It may well be that GLF 2010 is not the same old retreat to the “exotic” South, to see the “locals” patrol their writing amidst the “creative juices” of an assortment of [3rd rate] non-Sri Lankan writers. Of course, GLF has, since its inception, become a massive market venture: a co-operate enterprise among book people, hotel people and a host of Colombo-writers awaiting a “break”.
In turn, GLF has thusfar been a gymnasium for the fashionistas, wannabe literary items, the obnoxious curs and bitches of Colombo’s “above-literature” hi society to spend a profitable and amused weekend at.
An item to await for is the release of Shehan Karunathilake’s maiden “The Chinaman“, which, it is told, would happen in the process of the mardi gras. Well, this novel for which Shehan won the Gratiaen Prize for 2008 [awarded in 2009] should be an article to look forward to since its been over an year since the prize was awarded and he’s taken all the time in the wide world with the “further editing” of his hit. I would have liked to see “The Chinaman” as it was when its manuscript won the Gratiaen. My Stable Horses was shortlisted alongside Shehan’s thing and I had a hunch that Shehan had done something big with his submission.
An overall look at the list of “writers” doesn’t indicate any improvements from last year. Apart from the same “basic” aunties and uncles from Colombo we have a few coffee-table scribblers and a kid or two to jazz up the “wannabe” bracket of things. Don’t wanna go into names in here, cos it is a very fragile wing we’re dealing with, but with Ameena Hussein opening the batting and a Thilini Ranasinghe [apparently her contribution to Lankan writing is co-translating a short story into Sinhala; working with Michael Meyler and co] coming down at Number 10, the parameters are well and truly set.
Last year, when Sivamohan Sumathy went to Galle I was quite pissed, cos that Gallish “walk” by Sumathy was a stark contradiction to her touch of the universe and her “talk”. Since I have seen at close quarters Sumathy work and being somewhat familiar with Sumathy’s “politik” I was thoroughly disillusioned she had to go down for that class-relative, elitist circus they name “GLF”. Well, this year, the promo ad does not include Sumathy’s name — either Sumathy had had a decent waking up; or, else, she had left back too deep a foot mark at GLF 2009.
Ashok Ferry is in and his “Serendipity” may receive a good audience with the suddhas [it sure is written with an orientalist pen and holds back very little of its exoticization of this island]. Channa Daswatte, Hasini Haputhanthri, David Blacker, Lal Medawattegedara and Richard Boyle are listed out as the “feature items”. Rajpal makes an appearance, and in my ignorance I had only known Rajpal as a newspaper editor. Ruwanthi De Chickera, Shyam Selvadurai and Sybil Wettasinghe, too, come in and the list rounds up with Shehan and Cyril Wijesundara.
A notable absentee is Vivimarie Vanderpoorten — is she out of the country or what? Kandy doesn’t seem to exist for the organizers, unless the writers from Kandy, like myself, have all opted out. The GLF has always been bashed on its head for its preoccupation with “English” writing. Have the organizers, as often shared, thought of giving the “festival” a trilingual light? The promo poster doesn’t seem to indicate so.
I mean, Hell — GLF would go on. Just because a few brats of my caliber cough in a blog the GLF should take no heed. It is run by marketers who give full value to the stuff they deal with. Perhaps, what I need is a good shake up, that may snap off from its root my prejudice. Maybe, the organizers have done their homework and done some solid work to ensure “fair play” for a wider “Lankan literary sensibility”. It’s just the promo poster I have seen — and in that I see no improvement. In any case, I have taken a policy decision not to be a part of the circus — as a writer, that is. This decision was taken last year and, as yet, I see no reason for me to revise it. But, may this be the year that I will be led to see some light at the end of this ghoulish tunnel: the year that will make the GLF a national enterprise, in spirit, orientation and sentiment.