by Mayflower Sanders
Vihanga Perera, who prefers to call himself a writer of “fiction”, “short fiction”, “poetry” and whatnot, I am certain, does not wish some nosy critic to discourage his limited readership each time he embarks on a new literary venture. Nevertheless, the current reviewer who was fated to go through Perera’s most recent work, Postcards to Benthem, thought it not unseemly to record one or two personal observations on behalf of this enthusiastic writer as well as the dear reader who will have the pleasure or pain – or a varying mixture of both – of perusing this collection of “short fiction”.
Vihanga Perera, with his tendency to experiment, is a writer who – more often than not – is at odds with the conventional forms of narrative favoured by the multiple agencies of mainstream literature. Irrespective of various judgments passed on the content, or the very lack of a coherent content which itself becomes the more meaningful content in instances like Fear of Gambling, Perera’s literary or meta-literary texts have been characterized by a daring to try out novel modes of expression. However, what is significant about Postcards to Benthem is that the writer, known – or most probably unknown for the same reason – for his preoccupation with, what one might term, “experimental” literature, strikes a compromise between his “experimental” tendencies and the demands of “popular fiction”. Hence, it is in view of this dual aspect of the text in question that one can choose to call it a juxtaposition of Postcards to Benthem and Postcards to Ben Ten – the former appellation standing for the unconventional elements of the work and the latter standing for those which appeal to the mainstream literary politics.
If certain readers, in their encounter with his previous works, had to exercise a lot of self-restraint not to damn Perera for trying their patience with some of his “esoteric” characters having various personal idiosyncrasies, hopefully they will find the engagement with Postcards to Bentham a more tolerable experience. Some might even feel like hugging the writer for the simple pleasure that he has produced something which they can – at least on the superficial grounds – can comprehend and perhaps relate to. To quote Vihanga Perera’s own words: “If you have read me and felt lost and uninterested – this collection is your salvation”. Finally, dear reader, Perera is not one to be taken at his word all the time, yet, this once – let me assure you – he is genuine.