Ms Kanthi Gunathilake is a prolific writer who has written 60 works of fiction. She is unique in that much of her fiction is based in Japan, a country she knows intimately as she has lived there for nearly two decades.
Five more novels written by her were published recently. These range from the 300-page Shinano to the 88-page children’s story Hima Kande Punchi Veerayo (The little heroes of the snow mountain). Shinano is based in Nigata, where Japan’s longest river known as the Shinano mingles with sea.
It revolves around a boy born to a Japanese father and Sri Lankan mother.
The Japanese remain uncomfortable with foreigners, or gaijin, and Japanese children of mixed race too, are rarely well integrated into Japanese society.
The problems faced by Takahashi, the son of a foreign mother, are discussed in this novel with artistic sensitivity.
Yali Pipuna Mala (The flower that bloomed twice is a love story based in Japan’s mountainous Fukushima Province.
"The Japanese remain uncomfortable with foreigners, or gaijin, and Japanese children of mixed race too, are rarely well integrated into Japanese society"
The author spent much of her time in rural Ibaraki Province, and her love of nature and Japan’s traditions is evident in her writing.
Punchi Hinawa is a children’s story with an interesting plot line, exploring a friendship between two friends with a considerable age gap, one very young, the other quite old.
Kanthi Gunathilake has an uncanny ability to maintain dramatic tension with everyday situations. There is nothing sensational in her writing.
Her characterisation is seemingly effortless and plot situations do not look contrived.
Though she opts for a happy ending rather than a tragic outcome, that doesn’t look contrived in any of her stories because the nature of her writing is ‘sunny’ rather than ‘dark’ even when the mood gets sombre. What is evident too, is a deeply felt respect for Japanese culture and customs.
The author feels that she has an intuitive understanding of Japan and its people, as much as any Japanese writer would have.
Her debut novel Muthu Kandulu was launched in 2001 in Japan.
It is a pity that she has not been translated into either English or Japanese yet as she ranks among the most consistent and prolific Sri Lankan novelists.
Ms Gunathilake recalls with deep affection Mrs Mallika Dissanayake, Prof. Kusuma Karunaratne, writer Anula de Silva and critic Edwin Ariyadasa as mentors and guiding spirits of her literary career.