The Galle Diaries III

Reflections of the GLF 2012 through the eyes of a Lit Lover


20th January 2012

When I arrive at the Galle Fort the next morning at 9am the number of people attending the festival seems to have doubled thanks to the fact that its now the weekend. I spot an group outside Amangalla listening to renowned architect Channa Daswatta before heading off on a tour of Galle’s coastal architecture. I on the other hand are headed to the Halle de Galle to hear Irishman John Boyne discuss his book ‘Boy in the Stripped Pyjamas’ which was also made into an award winning film.

Boyne reclines in his chair, and in his accented voice why he chose to write a story about the Holocaust, despite having no family connections to the event at all. He explained how his image of two boys talking over a fence was so strong in him and the first draft of the book was finished in a matter of weeks. He also touched on the rich culture of literature that the Irish possess that spurred him on, as well explaining that he just wrote what he felt was within them and “it doesn’t seem to matter who the audience was”. The questions from the audience came fast and in response to those that questioned the ending, Boyne responded that the ending is the very point of the book, and changing the ending would have defeated the purpose. I hurry out at this point to ensure that I wont have to wait hours in line.

After a wonderful lunch at the Fort Printer and some white wine later, I head to the Maritime Museum for the Duet session with two writers who have been born and brought up in London and Canada respectively but who have parents that emigrated from Sri Lanka. Moderated by Indian author Manju Kapur who is also featured in the festival, she begins the session with Roshi Fernando who talks about how even though she is British; she feels a deep connection with Sri Lanka and her cultural heritage. Laughing she describing various incidents that illustrate this. She then moves on to talk about her newly released book ‘Homesickness’, and how the concept is not limited to the longing for home but the longing for something we miss. Next Manju turns to Randy Boyagoda, who amuses us with the story of his ancestor who inspired the base of his novel ‘Beggar’s Feast’. This ancestor, Randy tells us, was married three times, murdering two of them. He also touches on how it was his Sri Lankan roots which was his inspiration. The Q&A session wakes everyone up a little, with an English teacher in the audience condemning Randy’s mocking of a Sri Lankan accent and several people spoke up both defending him and agreeing with the teacher.

It is still warm when I head back to the Halle de Galle, to listen to the eminent British author Joanna Trollope. She turns out to be an absolute delight; starting off by thanking the audience for the passion of ‘the written word’ they exude as well as for speaking ‘English so beautifully’. Charming and witty, Joanna has the audience warmed up in no time as she discussed her latest novels ‘The Other Family” and “Daughters in Law”. She offers us interesting insights on human behaviors, noting that we have a “compulsion to measure how much someone loved us by what they leave us” when they die. When I approach her at the book singing she is all smiles and chatty. One of the highest points of the 2012 GLF easily and credit must go to Ashok Ferry for his excellent mediating.

I wind up the third day with dinner at the Lighthouse hotel and have to stop myself from squealing when I spot DJ Taylor heading towards the buffet line ahead of me. It is with a real feeling of sadness that I end my final night Down South.

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