The Shortlist for the third Fairway National Literary Awards was announced recently at a gathering well attended by academics, literary enthusiasts and the media. The judges – all eminent persons in their respective fields – chose a total of 13 novels; five from the Sinhala language category and four each from the Tamil and English language categories.
The shortlisted novels in the English language category are;
Dutugemunu: Prince of Destiny by Rukmani Samaranayake – a retelling of the Mahavamsa by taking a new look at one of Sri Lanka’s iconic historical figures with the insight and imagination of historical fiction,
Song of the Sun God by Shankari Chandran – a family history set against a backdrop of civil upheaval,
Wrath of Kali: The dark side of God by Mario Perera – an in-depth exploration of the psychotherapy of a nation and religion’s part in a struggle for liberation, and
The Other One by Amanda Jay – an engaging and twisty steampunk influenced science fiction work, standing out from the rest in genre and theme.
The judges drew attention to the crucial importance of the role of an editor in novel writing. This role is not limited to merely proof-reading typos and checking grammar but also encompasses working closely with the writer to create a work that has greater finesse, clarity and structure. The chosen novels were commended for being fascinating and uniquely personal observations of the world around us and for their quality of writing, structure and substance.
The panel of judges for the English language category comprises Ranjini Obeyesekere – academic, literary critic and translator in the fields of literature and theatre and performance, Jolly Somasundaram – retired civil servant, writer, playwright and film and literary critic, and Arun Welandawe–Prematilleke – actor, playwright, director and specialist in immersive theatre.
The shortlisted Sinhala novels together provide deep social and cultural interpretations though extremely sensitive characterisation. The use of language to fit the relevant themes and the exploration of new territory in the realistic rendition of language use along with experiments in structure and creative expression highlighted the five chosen novels, which are;
Handa Paluwa Thani Tharuwa by Nissanka Wijemanna – a look at inter-racial relationships in a society deeply divided by religious and cultural differences,
Yakada Silpara by Wimal Udaya Hapugodaarachchi – a tale of traditional village life in the early 20th century being disrupted by the onset of the railway,
Garunda Muhurthiya by Keerthi Welisarage – an exploration of realistic expression in portraying the changes taking place in rural society as a result of colonialism,
Panduka Puthra Wasthuwa by Anurasiri Hettige – a sensitive and deep analysis of the life patterns of the urban lower middle class and the facet of homosexuality in that milieu, and
Nikini Kaluwara by Deepthi Mangala Rajapaksha – a tale spanning six decades probing political changes and their dark ramifications in Sri Lanka.
The panel of judges for the Sinhala language category comprises Gamini Viyangoda – writer, translator, social activist and political columnist, Buddhadasa Galappaththi – poet, writer, award winning columnist and stage drama make-up artist, and Prabha Manuratne – academic and literary critic championing feminist theory, Marxism and psychoanalysis.
The panel of judges for the Tamil language category comprise V. Maheswaran – academic and award-winning writer, Sumathy Sivamohan – academic, award winning film-maker, writer, performer, playwright and poet advocating gender, dispossession, the displaced and the question of nation in literature, performance and film studies, and M. S. M. Anes – academic, writer and translator in the areas of philosophy, culture, music and folklore. The four selected novels are;
Thazhumbu by M. Balasingham – a story depicting the disruption of family and social cohesion by displacement during the war,
Kulaimurisal by J. Wahabdeen – an exploration of dynamic class relationships prevalent in the tenant farmer system in the East,
Ethanam by Theniyaan – the tracing of particular moments in the class struggle focusing on the oppressed Dalits, and
Neenthik Kadantha Nerupparu by N. Yohendranathan – recounting the final phase of the civil war and its impact on the people of Vanni in the context of the defeat of the Tamil nationalist struggle.
The novels were praised for the important core concerns which they raise, the craft of the composition, the impact they make on the reader and the place they will occupy in the corpus of Tamil literature.
Each shortlisted novelist will receive a sum of Rs. 100,000/- and the winning novelists in the three language categories will each receive Rs. 500,000/- at the Fairway Galle Literary Festival to be held in January 2018. Inaugurated in 2015 by Fairway Holdings (Pvt.) Ltd. to coincide with its title sponsorship of the Fairway Galle Literary Festival, the Fairway National Literary Awards are the most lucrative literary awards presently on offer in Sri Lanka.