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I'd write more, like you said I should. If only, there was more to me.

Sunday, January 13, 2008


Apart from meeting writers, one of the biggest joys of a lit fest, is the uncharted voyage of discovery.

Mine invariably starts with a session. While I love meeting established writers, interviewing them, talking to them, hanging out with them, there is the thrill of discovering many, many names I wouldn't have read, if not for a lit fest.

Last night, when the house was quiet, the telly was given a break, I worked on three of my sessions for the Galle Lit Fest. It was a fascinating ride. If you haven't already heard of them, I thought I'd take more than a moment to introduce you to three enormously gifted writers.

Let's go with the ladies first.

She read History of Art, went on to work as a staff correspondent in Fleet Street, a job she left to research medieval European Art.

From there it was more travel, this time in Asia, the Far East, Australia & America, where she studied Tibetan Thanka painting, wrote the text for a book of photographs on Nepal, edited an anthology of mystical poetry and wrote a film treatment.

Then she returned to journalism working first for the Independent, covering the revolution in Sri Lanka in the early 1990s and both sides of the island's civil war. She was then posted to New Delhi, first for New York Times Video News International, then the Daily and Sunday Telegraph, as their South Asia correspondent, covering India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Afghanistan & Iran. 1996 to 2002, saw her reporting on the wars in Afghanistan, including the post 9/11 American campaign. She also reported from the front lines of the Indo-Pakistan wars in Kashmir and began writing her debut novel 'Serpent in Paradise' in Sri Lanka in 2003.

The novel started "while I was grovelling in the dust in Tora Bora in Afghanistan in 2001, I was being shot at and thought: there must be better things to do with my life than this."

I'm not sure what I would be thinking if I were being shot at, it certainly wouldn't be a novel. Which is why I'm dying to meet the daring Julian West. She's been there, done that and is busy at work on her second novel.

Then there's a poet, essayist and translator in English, Spanish and French. His first book 'The Elephants of Reckoning' won the 1994 Paterson Prize in the United States, and he has gone on to write four other works after that. These include - The Splintered Face, Tsunami Poems (to be launched at the festival - Hanging Loose Press, January 2008), Ceylon R.I.P. (The International Centre for Ethnic Studies, Colombo, Sri Lanka, 2001), El Hombre Que Recoge Nidos (Resistencia/CONARTE, Mexico, 2005) El Infierno de los Pajaros (Resistencia, Mexico, 2001), The Elephants of Reckoning (Hanging Loose Press, 1993).

His essays and op-eds have appeared in The Hindu, the New York Times, El Norte, Reforma, New York/Newsday, The Daily News (Sri Lanka).

He directed Mexico's first ever programme dedicated to conversations with poets which appeared on cable television in Northern Mexico in 2006. He is a New York Foundation for the Arts fellow and a past recipient of an award from the US/Mexico Fund for Culture. He is currently working on a translation of poet Jose Eugenio Sanchez.

Meet Indran Amirthnayagam.

This book cover left me a little unsettled last night. Since it was too late in the night to go looking for it, I ended up reading everything about it online. Randy Boyagoda's debut novel, 'Governor of the Northern Province' was longlisted for the Scotiabank Giller Prize. Writer, critic and scholar, he is a Professor of American literature at Ryerson University in Toronto.

Julian West, Indran Amirthanayagam and Randy Boyagoda will be discussing Writing: The Pain & The Pleasure' on Thursday, 4:30pm at the Hall de Galle. There'll be lots to write about, I'm sure.

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