“The One Who Loves You So”, a play by Arun Welendawe Prematilleke won the Gratiaen Prize 2018, for the best work of creative writing in English by a Sri Lankan writer living in Sri Lanka. The H.A.I. Goonetileke Prize for Translation, which was also awarded yesterday, was won by Prof. Vini Vitharana for his translation of the much-acclaimed Sinhala classic Kav Silumina.
Arun Welandawe Prematilleke’s playscript was one of four shortlisted works for the Gratiaen Prize. The others on the short list were Shehan Karunatilake’s novel “Chats with the Dead”, “Youthful Escapades” by Upali Mahaliyana and “They Failed to Kill Her” by Zeneefa Zaneer.
The Gratiaen Prize judges observed that the winning entry was “a consummate work of art in one of the hardest of genres to realise success – both on the page and on the stage”. A play about two young men navigating their relationships, the judges said that Arun Welandawe Prematilleke has clearly mastered the art form, “understanding the power of what is said and what remains unsaid, what is seen and what is surmised.”
There were 11 entries for the H.A.I. Goonetileke Prize this year. Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan, the chair of the judging panel noted that Prof. Vitharana’s translation had a distinctive voice accessible to the ordinary reader, a consistent use of meter and rhyme, and eminently deserved its place within the canon of translations of classical texts.
The judges for the Gratiaen Prize 2018 were: Gill Caldicott, Director, British Council, Sri Lanka (chair), Ramya Jirasinghe, creative writer and researcher, and Andi Schubert, university academic and social researcher. The judges for the H.A.I. Goonetileke Prize 2017-2018 were Prof. Sumathy Sivamohan (chair), film maker and academic, Prof. Saumya Liyanage, dramatist, actor and academic, Charulatha Thewarathanthri, writer; and Esther Surenthiraraj, university academic.
The event was held in front of an invited audience of writers, academics, translators, publishers, principals, teachers and students studying English literature for A levels in schools, and university students. Speaking at the event Mr. H. D. Premasiri, Chairman of the Sarasavi Group noted that, as one of the largest publishers in the country, Sarasavi Bookshop recognized the power of literature to shape and influence society, and that this vision had prompted Sarasavi to partner with the Gratiaen Trust. Prof. Neloufer de Mel, Chairperson of the Gratiaen Trust stated that in its 26th year, the Trust was moving into new directions, embarking on a program of Benefactors and Friends of the Trust, workshops and mentoring of writers. She said the aim of the Trust was to support writers and translators achieve sustained excellence in their creative work.