There are a few bilingual writers among the Lankan Tamils. Some write in Tamil and English. Some write in Tamil and Sinhala and a handful of people are trilingual. However, there seems to be no interaction among the different communities.
I wish more Sinhala critics take notice of writers in English too. Bilingual critics from the Sinhala community can introduce books and writers who write in Tamil or English. Similarly, bilingual from Tamil or Muslim communities can introduce Sinhala work to the Tamil readership.
"I wish more Sinhala critics take notice of writers in English too. Bilingual critics from the Sinhala community can introduce books and writers who write in Tamil or English"
In that way, we can narrow ethnic prejudices. Such a contribution could pave the way for more writers using different languages to bring harmony and understanding. At present, academics like Kandiah Shriganeshan, Jeyashankar, Pathmanathan and K.S. Sivakumaran do these type of work.
Recently, Ayathurai Santhan had a breakthrough to the English-speaking world with his creativity. Academics like Yasmine Gooneratne, D.C.R.A. Gooneratne, Lakshmi de Silva, Sunanda Mahendra, and medical doctors like Carlo Fonseka, Gunadasa Amarasekera, Lynn Ockersz, Gamini Akmeemana, and youngsters like Malinda Seneviratne, Uditha Devapriya from the Sinhalese community can write in English or Sinhala about Tamil literary activities.
Let me introduce a book in English by a bilingual Tamil writer. Santhan’s book titled ‘World in a Flash’ is a collection of criticism edited by Kandiah Shriganeshan and published by the English Association of Vavuniya. This academic is now attached to the Yaalpaanam University. The book is dedicated to the late A. J. Canagaratna (critic, pioneer translator and guide to many a young writer).
If the literary historians have not heard of AJ, let me brief them. He did English Honours at Peradeniya and was a contemporary of Dr. Wilfrid Jayasuriya, A.J. Gunawardena and Haig Karunaratne. He had also compiled and edited a book on the late Regi Siriwardena.
Sriganeshan’s book has 96 pages that include 15 pages of appendix.
In the introduction, the compiler says: “The present collection of Santhan’s writing gives a fair picture of his world. There have been criticism and comments about his short stories and poems. When I went through all the criticism, I got a feeling that these could be collected and put into a single volume, so that the literary world could have a complete and comprehensive picture of this rare Sri Lankan bird writing in English and Tamil. Since writing in English with a Tamil perspective is very limited and the only writer who writes profusely and sharply is Santhan, it is essential and pertinent to introduce his literary world to people in order to make them know the life of the people in this part of the country and also to promote English writing in Sri Lanka.”
"Writing in English with a Tamil perspective is very limited and the only writer who writes profusely and sharply is Santhan"
From this collection of literary criticism, one notices that people who matter in English writing in Lanka has also assessed Santhan’s worth as a splendid writer are the following:
Alison Thomas (UK), Lynn Ockersz, Carl Muller, Chandana Dissanayake, Regi Siriwardena, Ashok K. Khanna, Premini Amarasinghe, Nanda Pethiyagoda and Dr. Gerard Robuchon.
The others are from the Tamil community; the late Prof. K. Sivathamby, Prof. Chelva Kanaganayagam, Prof. Suresh Canagarajah, A.J. Canagaratna, K.S. Sivakumaran, K. Sivapalan and P. Pologasingham. The book includes Santhan’s short articles as well.
I recommend this resource book to students reading English in universities and other academics. It is worth. It is priced at Rs.250 and can be obtained from the editor. His e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org