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Editorial - Legend of Karunatilake’s Chinaman

13 June 2012 06:30 pm - 0     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

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Good books are hard to come by.
Perhaps that is why Shahan Karunatilake’s feat of winning the Commonwealth Writer’s Award is a true reason to rejoice over as a nation. In a country where English is a second language and the readership of English Literature is not very many, Karunatilke’s achievement has set new standards for those who are willing to follow his footsteps.

Up until now, the highest feat ever reached by a Sri Lankan in the field of literature was the award of the  Booker prize won  by  Michael Ondajee for his book ‘The English Patient.’  Karunatilake has equalled the grounds by writing a book that is not only as rich as the former but also contains more elements of Sri Lankan identity.
 No doubt, breaking the mould would not have been easy for him; specially when the readers expect the writer to twist the same plot and move the same set of characters to produce something out of the mundane mixture. Karunatilake with his fascinating craftsmanship, takes the reader out of his/her comfort zone and creates the impression that some books do come with strange covers and queer characters.



 It takes courage to go beyond the set formula and introduce characters that are both mysterious and not physically handsome. Perhaps his humour would not be found tolerable by some readers. Karunatilake’s specialty is that he does not try to over-impress the reader. He relates his story and it is up to the reader to like it or hate it.
 In a country where anyone who can afford to self-publish loose manuscripts and proclaim themselves as writers, Karunatilake is a shining example as to what an ideal writer should be. His journey has been slow. He insists on thorough research before dipping his pen into a tale. His snail-pace might not be approved by the readers who are eager to read his next book. However, these long intervals make sure that every word falls into the ideal place in the story.

 A good book always reminds one that life is worth living. The same is true with The Chinaman, which not only provides entertainment in plenty, but also a lot of insight to the way cricket has blended in with the island life.

The question as to whether Pradeep Mathew was entirely fictional or not, does not matter much. Readers have already made him a living person and the Commonwealth writer’s prize has only seconded the former’s choice.

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