Sunday, November 27, 2016

Ethno-Nationalism and Cultural Self-Criticism in the Sinhala and English “War Novel”



INTRODUCTION 
   Liyanage Amarakeerthi in “Sinhala Poetry as a Cultural Self-Criticism” states:
After the end of Sri Lankan civil war … an interesting new trend has emerged, mainly among the younger generation of Sinhala poets: they have begun ‘a project of cultural self-criticism,’ questioning some aspects of Sinhala nationalism, cultural conservatism and resistance to change during the last decade. (Phoenix VIII: 73)
 
Fig. 1.  Liyanage Amarakeerthi
So far no attempt has been made to establish whether a similar endeavour has been undertaken by Sri Lankan novelists writing on the theme of the recently concluded war. Hence, my attempt is to discern to what extent “ethno-nationalism” and/or the aforesaid “project of cultural self-criticism” is evident in the post-2000 Sri Lankan war novels[1], and if such views are present, how the writers’ linguistic choices, socioeconomic backgrounds, geopolitical locations, market trends, and the intended readerships may determine them.
Why novels?
     There was a time when discussions of socioeconomic and political issues in fiction were considered a “pistol shot in the middle of a concert” (Stendhal qtd. in Jameson 69). However, this idea has by now been challenged and dislodged by Fredric Jameson and R. T. Robertson, among several others. For this study, I have singled out the novel, for it is, as R. T. Robertson in The Novels of Mulk Raj Anand points out, “an especially suitable form in which to pursue social conflict” ( 99). Moreover, according to Fredric Jameson “[a]ll third-world texts are necessarily allegorical … [and] the story of the private individual destiny [in the third-world text] is always an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society” (Social Text 69). Though most postcolonial critics tend to disagree with Jameson on his concept of the novel being “a national allegory”, I believe it is very much applicable to the novels dealing with the recently concluded war in Sri Lanka. Thus, the first half of my analysis will be a comparative study of novels written by three groups of writers:
Table 1. Novels Used for the Study
 
Ethnic Sinhala Writers Writing in Sinhala
Ethnic Sinhala Writers Writing in English
Ethnic Tamil Writers Writing in English
Ginisiluwaka Sanda eliya – Ranjith Dharmakirti
Island of A Thousand Mirrors – Nayomi Munaweera
Love Marriage – V. V. Ganeshanathan
Kalu Dongkaraya – Karunadasa Sooriyaarachchi
The Road From Elephant Pass – Nihal de Silva
Mosquito – Roma Tearne

Why a Comparative Study?
     Wittgenstein in Wittgenstein at Work points out, that “to imagine a language means to imagine a form of life” (Ammereller 29). This statement encourages one to assume that one’s competence in a particular language may have an impact on one’s ideological makeup. Sri Lanka being a multiethnic, multilingual nation, at least three languages – Sinhala, Tamil, and English – are used in literary activities. Interestingly, as in many postcolonial nations, in Sri Lanka, too, linguistic choices of many writers seem to override their racio-religious identities and point to their class affiliations. Hence, taking the view expressed by Wittgenstein into consideration, the comparative study attempts to determine whether there is a linguistic basis for the way the war is depicted in the novels written in Sinhala and English: as engaged in “a project of cultural self-criticism” or promoting “ethno-nationalism”.
     As a whole, in Sri Lanka, those who are competent in the English language belong to the upper strata of the social order. Their specific hybridity, as English speaking urban elites, I believe, sets them apart from the masses who speak Sinhala and/or Tamil as their first language, and unifies them as a privileged class irrespective of their ethnicity and religion. Moreover, arguably, due to the influence of their unique socioeconomic background and geopolitical location, members of this class have often been reported expressing views that are at odds with their Sinhala and/or Tamil-speaking counterparts. For example, during the first decade of this century a number of Sri Lankan elites had made statements opposing the war that resulted in heated debates in and out of the parliament. In the web article “It will not be easy to defeat the rebels”, the Left Front Leader, Wickramabahu Karunaratne had stated, “Military policy by the government will not do any good to the Sinhala or Tamil community in the country”. Similarly, Walter Jayawardhana’s web article “UNP spokesman says they would not support the war of this govt. against LTTE” quotes Rajitha Senaratne, then spokesman of the UNP, speaking to the BBC stating that the UNP “would never support the war the government is waging against the LTTE”. Likewise, the electronic article “Sri Lanka anti-war group calls for negotiations” quotes Kumar Rupasinghe stating that “it is everyone 's responsibility to start [peace] talks”. The same source quotes Vasudeva Nanayakkara stating that the "war will not solve the Tamil people's problem".
     In contrast, many Sinhala and/or Tamil-speakers had been reported making positive remarks about the war. The web article “Sri Lanka's top monk shuns non-violence” quotes Athuralye Rathana Thera stating, “[With] the LTTE separatist movement, the government has some duty to control their military activities”. In another web article headed “JVP calls for war against Tigers”, JVP leader Somawansa Amarasinghe had stated, “[T]errorism cannot be defeated only by defending ourselves … It’s high time that government shifted to military attacks”. In a recent web article headed “Minister Champika Ranawaka on Sinhalese liberation and NPC elections”, Patali Champika Ranawaka had called for an “increase in nationalist movements,” for according to him, “they are needed for the liberation of the Sinhala community and to sustain the war victories of the island”.
     Similarly, in the web article “Tigers Cornered with War Waning” Tasha Manoranjan says, “[M]any Tamils think that they would have been wiped out years ago if not for the insurgency”. Likewise, Mano Ganeshan in the web article “UNP spokesman says they would not support the war of this govt. against LTTE” states that “the international community is taking note of the problems Tamils face in Sri Lanka only because of the armed struggle of the Liberation Tigers”. Also, in the web article “Sri Lanka's Tamils watch in silence”, TNA supporter Suresh Premachandran is quoted saying that “the Tamil struggle will continue with or without the LTTE as long as the Tamils remain an oppressed people”.
     Based on such views, initially, I anticipated a marked difference in the depiction of the war in English and Sinhala war novels in terms of narrative perspective, characterization, themes, etc. However, though there are many instances of “ethno-nationalism” and “cultural self-criticism” in the twenty English and Sinhala novels on the recently concluded war I have read as a part of my initial survey, they clearly defy neat dichotomization along a linguisticfault-line as “ethno-nationalistic” or “engaged in a project of cultural-self criticism”.
     However, if one considers the narrative point of view and the ethnicity of the writer as the deciding criteria, then the novels of Karunadasa Sooriarachchi, V.V. Ganeshanathan and Roma Tearne seem to show “ethno-nationalistic” tendencies while those of Nayomi Munaweera, Ranjith Dharmakirti, and Nihal de Silva seem be engaged in criticisms of such tendencies. Therefore, my thesis is that the writer’s socio-economic background, geo-political location, market trends, and the intended readership have a strong impact on the way s/he deals with the topic of war irrespective of the language used. 
     In Chapters I, II, and III, the selected novels will be analyzed for the viewpoints displayed by the narrators and the characters on the war, nation-ness, post-war nation-building, and inter-ethnic love/ marriage as aspects of “ethno-nationalism” and/or “cultural self-criticism”. Chapter IV engages in a comparative study of the English and Sinhala novels of the three categories in order to determine whether their “ethno-nationalism” and/or “cultural self-criticism” – if present - has a linguistic basis. Chapter V (Conclusion) will involve a survey in which the findings of Chapter IV will be compared with the socioeconomic backgrounds, geopolitical locations, market trends, and the intended readership of the novelists as an attempt to appreciate the politics of representation in the Sinhala and English “war novel”.
     As in representation, literary analysis, too, is not value-free. Daniel Chandler in Semiotics: The Basics states, “Whatever our philosophical positions in our daily behaviour we routinely act on the basis that some representations of reality are more reliable than others” (60). Therefore, at the outset, I declare that I am aware of the fact that in interpreting the novels in question, my own socioeconomic background and geopolitical location may influence my evaluations despite my most stringent efforts to be “impartial” and “academic”.

CHAPTER I: THE WAR IN SINHALA NOVELS[2]
     Chapters I, II, and III, will engage in an exploration of who the narrator is, what the war means to the narrator and characters, and how the Post-war nation-building process and nation-ness are presented in the six novels in order to determine whether they display “ethno-nationalistic” tendencies or are engaged in “a project of cultural self-criticism”.
01. Kalu Dongkaraya - Karunadasa Sooriyaarchchi 
 
 Fig. 2. Karunadasa Sooriyaarachchi
     The narrators of Kalu Dongkaraya are a new born infant and its deceased nineteen-year-old Tamil mother, Meena. The first person narrative unfolds as Meena tries to impart the history of the conflict as experienced by her to her infant daughter in a series of queries and responses. Though the actual time spent in narrating the story is limited to a few hours after the exodus of the Tamils across Nandikadal Lagoon during the Final War, the narrative covers a period beginning from the early days of the LTTE to the defeat of the outfit in 2009. In the course of her tragically brief life Meena becomes the recipient of multiple views on the issues of ethnic relations and the war. Among these, her father’s, Lakshmis’s, and Rathnam’s are of a greater significance. Meena’s father, who is a working class Tamil, initially supports the LTTE cause and identifies with them: “In the early days Appa spoke highly of Podiyans. He did not even refer to Piribakaran by name. Called him Thalaivar. At first, he said even Amirthalingam assassination was something that was fated to happen” (112). However, after his socialist friend Thangaraja was killed by the LTTE for criticising them, his conscience becomes divided: “At times he would say it was fair of Podiyans to do what they were doing and at others he would say it was unbearable to witness people being killed” (113).
     Rajarathnam is an educated middleclass tri-lingual who has lived a considerable part of his life in the south of the country. He is looked at with mistrust by some of his neighbours due to his marriage to a Sinhalese. Ratham, himself, has experienced both extreme cruelty and philia at the hands of the Sinhalese and come to the conclusion that, “[j]ust like the Tamils …some Sinhalese people are good. Some are bad” (25). Similarly, he is quite blunt in his criticism of the LTTE atrocities, too. Ultimately Rathnam is assassinated by the LTTE. 
     Lakshmi is the conduit for the views of her boyfriend Raja who is deeply involved in the LTTE activities. According to her:
[Some Tamil politicians] have maintained a lie for years. Those who went to people wearing verti here, wore ties and coats to go to the Parliament. Spoke in Tamil here, and there, in English. Rathnam is no different to them. Daughter Sara is in England … Son Ram is in the USA … We are in Kilinochchi. Let alone to London, we can’t go beyond Kilinochchi. We are trapped in the land we were born in. (59)
However, she does not approve of violence against unarmed civilians and the conscription. In the end she joins the LTTE to prevent one of her family members from being conscripted.    
     Meena obtains firsthand experience of a community undergoing a war situation. War has made life uncertain for those in the North. In addition, the entire society in the North is facing a socio-cultural crisis. Commenting on the scarcity of sumangali women to perform the rituals related to Meena’s puberty ceremony, her mother Kanmani states, “It has become a difficult thing to find a mother with children and a husband … Either the husband is dead … or the children have joined the LTTE … or shot by the Army” (21). She also adds that “[f]our or five girls in the village have become pregnant” to evade the LTTE conscription campaign (126). Meena, too, becomes pregnant towards the end of the Final War.
     The situation for the Sinhalese is far from being rosy. A news article shown to Meena by Rathnam described the LTTE massacre of the Sinhalese at Dollar Farm. Rathnam also says that in “Kandy and Colombo, parents … await the return of their school-going children with fear” (109). All in all, the novel projects a country that is in the grip of a cycle of terror.
     In the course of the narrative, the condition of Meena’s family deteriorates from a poverty-stricken-yet-hopeful situation to a state utterly without hope. On the whole, Meena develops a negative attitude towards the LTTE and is glad to see the end of the war. 

02. Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya – Ranjith Dharmakirti

 
 Fig. 3.Ranjith Dharmakirti
     Ranjith Dharmakirti’s Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya is narrated by a third person omniscient narrator who moves between Sinhalese and Tamil milieus. The protagonists are Nandani, the eldest daughter of an impoverished rural upper-caste Sinhalese Buddhist family, and Anandan, the elder son of a middleclass upper-caste Hindu family. Anandan sees the caste as a factor that unifies Nandani and him despite the difference in their ethnicity. Yet, initially Nandani refuses to work with Anandan for “[f]rom her childhood she had the idea that Tamils were rough people” (26). When he offers to visit her at her home she tells him not to, for she is afraid that “the villagers might consider her as traitor if she invited a Tamil to her home” (32). The socialist director of the hospital where Nandani worked is critical of her “ethnophobia”[3]. The narrator says that the kind of socialization the Sinhalese undergo, lack of respect for Tamils - “treating all Tamils, even the upper class educated Tamils who live in Jaffna as beneath the Sinhalese”, “lack of recognition for Tamil as an ancient language with a Great Canon, lack of facilities to study the language and literature, and the non-availability of Sinhala translations of Tamil literary work” are the reasons for the ethnic divide (53).
     Anandan, Shivalingam -his father, and Indrakumar - his university educated brother, engage in extensive criticism of both the Sinhalese and Tamils. However, the brunt of their arguments is that the Sinhalese “ethno-nationalism” pushes Tamils towards an armed struggle for a separate state or into fleeing the country as refugees[4]. According to Anandan: “If all those parties in the South had got together and supported Bandaranaike-Chelvanayagam Agreement, this problem could have been solved at that time” (93). The reason for not supporting such a resolution, according to Indrakumar, is that “[t]he majority of the Sinhalese are racist uneducated rural peasants and factory workers” (97). He concludes that, “[i]f Tamils cannot live freely, then our people are pushed towards a position where we have to obtain a fair solution through an armed struggle as the Boys say” (95)[5]. In reply to Indrakumar’s view on the emerging Tamil national pride due to the activities of the “Boys”, Anandan states, “We must stop talking about both Tamil pride and Sinhalese pride and build a common patriotism” (199). Interestingly, none of the Sinhalese characters engage substantially in a socio-political analysis of the current situation. Nandani’s family is portrayed as besieged by socioeconomic problems to the point that the members are beyond the kind of intellectual engagements frequent among Shivalingams.
     There are references to Sinhalese people acting generously towards Tamils who have become victims of the Sinhalese “ethno-nationalism” and vice versa. The novel also refers to LTTE practices such as kidnapping, death-threats, confiscation of property, and demanding of ‘dues’. In fact, mulling over his family’s situation, Shivalingam laments, “The way things are going on we cannot live either in the South or in the North” (202).
     In the novel, the West is depicted as a rational, rule governed place devoid of corruption, conflicts, and inequity. Indrakumar says, “European intellectuals and artists stood up against Hitler and the war with one voice … The only country with artists saying that war is good is Sri Lanka” (152). Upon immigrating, Anandappa, a permanent resident of Australia, tells Anandan, “You would experience a great change after living in Sri Lanka. People respect the law, here. Law is common to everybody. People are well-behaved. Civilized” (206). In the end, “Anandan gives up the idea of going back to Sri Lanka due to the situation back there and the peaceful and comfortable life he has made for himself in Australia” (220). Still, Anandan is aware that his problem would not end with migration to another country. So he warns his bride: “When we go to Sydney, the Sinhala organizations will approach you. The Tamil organizations will approach me. Those two organizations may even brand us as traitors for marrying outside the ethnicity. We have to build a life amidst these problems” (239).
    In conclusion, in Karunadasa Sooriyaarachci’s Kalu Dongkaraya, one of the narrators, the deceased mother, is clearly anti-war and anti-terrorist in her point of view and engages in an extensive “cultural self-criticism” through the incidents she selects to narrate to her infant daughter. The possibility of post-war reconciliation and an inclusive nation-ness is hinted at by three facts: Firstly, Meena calls the army personnel who come to her aid, “brothers”. Secondly, instead of joy, Meena’s death brings tears to the eyes of the nurses at the hospital[6]. Thirdly, the orphaned infant finds a wet-nurse in Ramya from Kabithigollawa – a village where a large number of men, women, and children had been massacred by the LTTE. While inter-ethnic marriage and hybridity are described in not so encouraging terms, the writer does not actively discourage them. Yet, the author’s own nationality makes the “project of cultural self-criticism” his Tamil narrators and characters engage in extremely problematic. 
     The third person narrator and some of the characters of Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya practice “cultural criticism” extensively. Yet, much of the criticism is done by the Tamil characters or the narrator on behalf of the Tamil characters in mono-ethnic milieus. Thus, in addition to a marked one-sidedness of the criticism, there is no space for an exchange of ideas between ethnicities. In addition, throughout the narrative Sinhalese characters all too readily accept a sense of racialized guilt. Interestingly, Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, written immediately after the Final War, does not make any references to it. Also, as Hemaratne Liyanarachchi in his web article “Ranjith’s rich structure and characterization” states, in the novel, “the imminent threat of terrorism whose flames have already begun to lick the social web of the country has been viewed from the far end of the telescope”. Moreover, though the novel makes passing references to the issue of caste discrimination that had led to youth unrest in the North and the South, this is not explored as an essential cause of the rise of armed insurgencies. Yet, when the writers’ own ethnicity as a Sinhalese is taken into account, this study of how the Self is seen by the Other is clearly an example of an attempt at a “cultural self-criticism”.    

CHAPTER II: ETHNIC SINHALA WRITERS AND THE WAR IN ENGLISH NOVELS
01.  Island of a Thousand Mirrors – Nayomi Munaweera
 
Fig. 4. Nayomi Munaweera
     Island uses the narrative points of view of Yashodara, a Sinhalese woman and Saraswathi, a Tamil woman. On the one hand, Yashodara’s class, youth, education, and the array of milieus she occupies places her at an ideal vantage point from which she could record some of the milepost events in post-Independence Sri Lankan history. Saraswathi’s narrative, on the other hand, is clouded by her traumatic personal experiences, her limited contact with her ethnic Other, and the limited and thereby limiting geopolitical location she occupies.
     In the novel, children of both ethnicities begin with an Edenic state of innocence on the issue of ethnicity which is invariably shattered by the “ethno-nationalism” of their serpentine adults. Mala and Nishan are told by their servant Seeni Banda that the Tamils intend to drive the Sinhalese into the ocean. Likewise, only dire need compels Sylvia Sunethra Rajasinghe to rent the upstairs of her house to the Shivalingams; thereafter, she resents their alien presence in her home to the very end. In addition, she tries to impose her own “ethnocentrism” on her children (Ananda and Vishaka) and grandchildren (Yashodara and Lanka) as well. So, when Ravan Shivalingam proposes to Vishaka, she declines it. Consequently, the two become enemies. Still, in spite of their enmity, their children become fast friends. Nevertheless, they too fall from innocence and their bond sours for the first time with the news of the burning of the Jaffna Public Library: “When I see him next, Shiva is brusque … When I ask him what is wrong his voice is cold. ‘They burnt 95,000 manuscripts,’ he says. ‘Your people burnt up our history.’ I stare at him, not knowing what to say but already he has turned from me and is running up the stairs” (76).
     For Yashodara the rise of the LTTE is an effect of the violence perpetrated on the Tamils by the Sinhalese in 1958:
At the age of four, the course of any life is uncharted; there are perhaps no fangs in this mouth, no incipient claws in evidence. He [Prabhakaran] is perhaps too young to remember these days of lootings, when houses were surrounded and set aflame with children crying inside them … In the decades to come The Leader with blood drenched claws and ripping fangs, a tiger-striped army ready to die at his command, these are the images he will offer when asked why. (30)
    Still, it is the victims of Black July, states Yashodara, who will become “the most militant and determined separatists” (89). Besides, she sees an orchestrated-ness in the 1983 violence:
They [the mob] committed the usual atrocities the usual ways, but here was something unexpected and incongruous. In their earth-encrusted, calloused fingers, they clutched clean white pages, neatly corner-stapled. Census accounts, voting registrations, pages detailing who lived where and most importantly, who was Tamil, Burgher, Muslim, or Sinhala. And in these lists was revealed precision and orchestration in the midst of smoky, charred flesh smelling chaos. (81)
Black July of 1983, according to the narrator, results in the birth of a vicious cycle of violence: “They [the LTTE] are willing to kill and die for the maternal comfort of this homeland, for the possibility of belonging. The government too is willing to send Sinhala soldiers to kill and die to protect this sliver of contested homeland” (117).The novel offers “Linga–Singhe wars” as a metaphor for this ongoing war (38).
     After Black July, Yashodara and her family leave the island and settle in the USA; yet, even abroad she cannot elude the violence that grips her motherland. Upon seeing the blown off head of an LTTE suicide bomber on TV, she asks, “What could have led her to this singularly terrible end?” (118). It is to this query Saraswathi’s narrative provides an answer.
     Many children of Saraswathi’s age have been “whisked away in speeding white army vans or torn from the sides of dead fathers and bleeding mothers by Tigers. The other ‘lucky’ ones have run away to the IDP camps” (123). Those left “dress themselves in shreds of tiger strips or camouflage, don ripped flack jackets that reached their knees and helmets that covered their eyes,” and play war games as soldiers and rebels (137-8). War visits the classroom, too: “Tiger striped men and women flood the classroom … show us videos of what the Sinhala soldiers do in the villages” (139). Due to such propaganda and her own experiences of the war, when two of her sons joined the LTTE, Saraswathi’s mother “didn’t cry. She kept her back straight and her eyes glistened only with pride” (124).
     Saraswathi, in contrast, is horrified by the war: “Sometimes I get this breathless feeling that the war is a living creature something huge, with a pointed tongue and wicked claws … I’ve grown up inside this war, so now I can’t imagine what it would be like to live outside it” (124). According to Saraswathi, the relationship between Tamils like her and the soldiers who stood for their ethnic Other is governed by hate and fear: “They [soldiers] look at us from under their round helmets with eyes filled with hate, but also with fear. They think any of us, man, woman, child may be bomb strapped, jiggling with flesh-tearing ballbearings secreted under skirts and shirts” (135-6). Young women are depicted as being victimized by the enemy as well as their own community due to their gender[7]: “It [“spoiling”] happened to my friend Parvathi … People stopped talking to her as soon as it happened, but they never stopped talking about her … One day … she jumped into a well” (136). When Saraswathi is raped her mother forces her to join the LTTE to avoid a similar stigma: “If you don’t go, you will ruin us all …You must go” (152).
     Members of the LTTE are depicted as having clay feet. They are “well fed” while the ordinary Tamils suffer food scarcities (142). As an LTTE cadre, Saraswathi feels superior to the civilians: “But they are stupid people, civilians. They do not know what it means to fight and kill and maybe die” (180). They also conscript child soldiers, raid villages, massacre defenceless civilians, and kill captives. This is how Saraswathi’s first “kill” is described:  
The officers have been questioning a Sinhala soldier. He is tied to a chair, blood everywhere on his face and small, concave chest … I straddle him, my boot on either side of his face. When his pleading eyes meet mine, I put the mouth of the rifle against his lips … The back of the head explodes, blood, bone, grey stuff splatters across my boots, splashing along my pant legs, even onto my hands. The girls around me are laughing. Patting me on the back. (175)
Still, despite her tough exterior, Saraswathi experiences a Lady Macbeth moment after this: “I keep my fluttering hands folded under my head; even here, even now, despite washing over and over I feel the thick slipperiness of gore on them” (175). She is willing to die for her cause; nevertheless, she confesses to the reader that “it [the Movement] is a tree fed upon blood at its roots” and wonders about “the taste of its fruit” (183). Ultimately Saraswathi becomes a “tiyaki[8]in an attempt to cleanse her body and mind abused by both sides at war.
       Both Saraswathi and Lanka die when the former, as a suicide bomber, blows herself up. Upon recognizing her sister’s body Yashodara’s cry joins those of others which she hopes would make “the war-makers quake and flee like the ancient demons, taking with them their weapons, their landmines, their silver tongued rhetoric, their nationalism, their martyrs and sacred Buddhist doctrine, the whole pile of stinking bullshit” (212). Once again, both Shiva and Yashodara flee “the shattered country like tongue-tied, gaunt and broken ghosts” (214). Talking about the war to her US friends, Yashodara says, “There are no martyrs here. It is a war between equally corrupt forces” (222). Still, Yashodara welcomes the end of the war and looks forward to celebrating peace after a suitable period of mourning for the collective dead.
     The possibility of reconciliation is embodied by Samudra, Yashodara’s daughter by Shiva, who is a composite of the three women, Yasodhara, Lanka, and Saraswathi. This is how Yashodara visualizes her daughter on a beach in a peaceful Sri Lanka one day in the future: “She is the child of the peace, the many desperate parts of her experience knit together in jumbled but peaceable unity. The waves lick away her footsteps, the sand retaining no record of what came before her. (225)

02. The Road from Elephant Pass – Nihal de Silva 
 
 Fig. 6. Nihal de Silva
     The narrator Of The Road is Wasantha Rathnayaka, a captain of an infantry regiment in the Sri Lanka Army, who believes war to be the only solution at that point in history towards the elimination of the LTTE. And he believes it is possible for the Army to win the war “if only the politicians would give us weapons we need and left military decisions in our hands” (4). Still, he strips the idealistic veneer that is often given to the soldier and reduces joining the Army to an economic decision: “I thought about the thousands of young men who jostled each other to join the army, lured by the lush benefits and prestige of the uniform. The army was often the only employer who would give them a second glance” (256). He is critical of inept leadership, glory-seeking, and arms deals in the Army. Similarly, he stripes Prabakaran of his own idealistic cover and calls him “a ruthless and a despotic tyrant … who has not only killed off most of the moderate Tamil leaders but also his own deputies who may have posed a threat to his leadership” (16). Wasantha also admits a reciprocal “loathing … for the Tigers” which according to him does not extend to “the ordinary Tamil villagers” (4).
      The narrator, who sees the war firsthand as an infantry officer, considers it as a menace that must be put an end to: “The fighting had, so far, taken sixty thousand lives and caused untold misery to tens of thousands of innocents” (16). Significantly, according to Wasantha, Black July “was the real beginning of the war that still rages in our country, seventeen years later” (103). However, he points out the erroneousness of Kamala’s choice of words which according to him gives a wrong picture of what really happened in 1983:
You say the Sinhalese attacked your family … but it wasn’t the Sinhalese nation was it? … It was a gang of men who happened to be Sinhalese … It has to do with confusing ‘all’ and ‘some’ in the minds of people. When you say Sinhalese are vicious murderers, you imply that ALL Sinhalese are like that. Surely that is not true. (321)
     The series of conversations between Wasantha and Kamala, an LTTE cadre, provide a rare insight into the conflict from both sides. Kamala says, “The Sinhalese have no right to peace”, for they have destroyed her family (133). Wasantha in reply asks, “How many times have your people bombed civilian targets in Colombo? … What about the families of the people killed and maimed in these attacks? If they also started personal vendettas, when will this ever end?” (133).
     For Kamala, the “history of violence and cruelty” towards Tamils by the Sinhalese which “is almost an instrument of government policy” and “the efforts of successive governments to colonize Tamil majority areas with Sinhala settlers” make ethnic coexistence in a unified state impossible (153). “We have the right to live without fear, to live in peace. We have the right to manage our own affairs, to use our own language and to preserve our culture. The Sinhalese want to subjugate us and keep us as citizens of a lower class, a subservient race,” states Kamala (153). She accuses the army of retaliatory attacks while defending the LTTE tactic of using civilian shields. In addition, she also illustrates the impossibility of winning a battle against a group that uses guerrilla tactics using a conventional style of combat:
We are guerrillas and we use guerrilla tactics. If you use draconian laws to control civilians, we will see to it that you are crucified in the media. If you ease up and allow civil liberties, we will use those same freedoms to infiltrate and destroy you. This is how this game will be played. (201)
     The forest in The Road plays a similar role to those in Shakespearean comedies by providing a space outside civilization where people can resolve problems brought on by civilization. Ultimately, the sworn enemies fall in love. Hence, the thrust of the novels’ argument is that one can build bridges and cross the ethnic divide at a personal level irrespective of the larger discourse on the war and the ethnic conflict in one’s society in general. His experience with this particular Other changes Wasantha. In agony over the fate of Kamala who is being questioned at the Army Headquarters, Wasantha muses:
How many thousands of my countrymen had their children, parents and lovers taken for questioning in the same way? … And all in the name of security! … And I had condoned, even supported, the practice. Now it is my turn to feel the anguish and mind-destroying anxiety. I could not bear it. (410)
Similarly, Kamala worries about how her own action might affect Wasantha’s life and career. Yet, as it was neither the time nor the space for a union such as theirs, the two go on their separate ways. Later, the reader learns that Wasantha has been reported “missing in action”. The novel ends leaving a feeling of deep regret over the irrational wastefulness of war.
     In wrapping this section up, through Island of a Thousand Mirrors, Munaweera attempts to present a critical point of view that covers major dichotomies - the Sinhalese and the Tamils, the North and the South, and the LTTE and the Army - of the Sri Lankan society at present. The character of the rapist soldier is given a human dimension through the bond between Kasun and his mother Alice and the warm friendship that exists between him and the children: Lanka, Yashodhara, and Shiva. Here, too, the idea of patriotism of the soldier is contested, for it is clearly poverty that compels Kasun to join the Army. Similarly Saraswathi learns to practice extreme violence; however she, too, suffers. Munaweera’s metaphor, the Linga-Singha wars, challenges the dichotomization of the Tamils as the oppressed and the Sinhalese as the oppressors. Yet, the use of terms such as burning of “the Tamil library” (the Jaffna Public Library) and “a sliver of contested homeland” (roughly one third of the island) points to an ambivalence in Yashodara for the Other’s cause (76,117). In the end, Yashodara seems to anticipate a complete blurring of ethnic identities as the desirable resolution.
     The Road provides a more intimate stage than Island for the two representatives from the warring parties to present their accusations, answers, and counter accusations. It also captures some of the “irrationalities” of the conflict. Wasantha is critical of all parties involved in the war, including himself. Yet, despite his attempts at being “rational”, when roused to anger Wasantha erupts into violent outbursts. Conversely, Kamala’s views often come out as dogmatic and clichéd. Unlike Wasantha, Kamala never makes any criticism of the LTTE except to say that it never forgives betrayal. One reason for this could be the fact that the reader does not have access to her thoughts unlike in the case of the narrator. Hence, it is impossible to gauge the impact the conversations between the two have on her.   

CHAPTER III: ETHNIC TAMIL WRITERS AND THE WAR IN ENGLISH NOVELS
01. Love Marriage – V.V. Ganeshanathan
 
 Fig. 7. V.V Ganeshanathan
     The story is narrated by Yalini who was born in the USA but “could not forget that each of her bones had emerged from a Tamil womb. Into a place and family that was Tamil” (97). However, she is willing to be friends with the Tamil-Sinhalese hybrid Rajani. Moreover, there are references to two inter-racial marriages in the novel. Yalini says her maternal uncle Neelan had “Married the Enemy … the Enemy only by an ethnic definition … [which] are always ugly: Sinhalese intruder in a Tamil family” (176). Similarly, Lalitha, a Sinhalese woman, had also married the Enemy for which she had been “disowned” by her family (146).
     According to Yalini, the answer to how far the ethnic conflict goes back depends on whom one is asking. “None of the stories will be absolutely complete, but their tellers will be absolutely certain. This is how we make war,” says Yalini (119). Yet, as does her aunt Kalyani, Yalini clearly believes that, “Sri Lankan Tamils are not a violent people; they are a people who have had violence imposed upon them” by the Sinhalese (155). Her father as “a member of Sri Lanka’s ethnic Tamil minority,” according to the narrator, “had to score even higher” than the Sinhalese to enter the medical college (80). “He was required to take yet another test to be placed in a government hospital. It was a proficiency test in Sinhalese, which was the official language of the island” (87). And this is what drives Murali away from the country, finally, according to the narrator. 
     July 23, 1983 is repeatedly referred to in the novel. According to Yalini’s aunt Kalyani, “it all started like this … there are the Tamil Tigers who want to separate the north, the boys in Jaffna set up a landmine, right, which kills thirteen Sri Lankan army officers in Jaffna, ceriya? … They were all Sinhalese. That sparked the riots. It was July 23, 1983” (127).  Yalini says, “Tamil separatist groups would rise, newly powerful, from the ashes of these riots - their ranks strengthened by the young people whose families had been hurt in 1983 and before” (5).
      When one is in such a situation one “think[s] that the only way out is to leave, but the war just moves with you,” says Yalini (171-2). Therefore, the Tamil Diaspora supports the LTTE who, as they say, are fighting their battle for them. Thus, dying Kumaran, as a member of the LTTE is someone to be honoured, a martyr: “Men come, bringing their sons; wives waited respectfully outside the room where he lay. Daughters read books … Some of the men, even those who were older than he, called him Anna, which meant respected older brother” (139).
     The narrator identifies the war as “our war” and asks whether it is “easy to blame these people [those who join the LTTE], when they lost so much” (28, 92). Nonetheless, her cousin Janani, an LTTE cadre, puts down Yalini’s claim of solidarity with the LTTE cause cuttingly by stating, “‘You barely understand me,’ she said. ‘How could you know about the war? You grew up without speaking Tamil? The war is like Tamil for you’” (42).

02. Mosquito – Roma Tearne
 
Fig. 8. Roma Tearne
     Tearne makes use of a third person omniscient narrator to tell her story. Working class Sinhalese like Sugi and Thercy, middleclass Sinhalese such as Rohan and Theo, Tamil characters such as Vikram as well as the narrator accuse the Sinhalese of harassing the Tamils. The narrator says, “In the wake of independence, the Singhalese had slowly denied the Tamils any chance of a decent education” (44). There is a reference to two Tamil medical students being forced to leave the medical college supposedly due to Sinhala being made the national language. The “Singhala” army is criticized for many crimes of which abduction is the most common. According to Rohan’s Italian wife Giulia, “The army came for them in the night, and then they [people] vanished” (182). Army “detention” houses contain people of all ethnicities, classes, and ages where they are kept under terrible conditions, tortured and killed at will. Vikram, a main character in the novel, was recruited by the LTTE after he had lost his entire family to the brutality of the “Singhala” army. “The army entered Vikram’s house in Batticaloa and raped his mother and his sister. They raped them many many times, Thercy said, beating the palms of her hands against her forehead” (46). Sugi, a Sinhalese, condemns the inhumanity of the army thus: “So much for our wonderful army” (47).
    Consequently, Tamils turn to terrorism. In the course of their struggle the LTTE recruits child soldiers, abducts civilians, and tortures and kills their enemies. According to Gopal, the 247 graves near their camp belonged to Muslim women the LTTE had killed: “They were people who should not have been living there, it was not their land, it was the Tamil land and their husbands and sons were all in the Singhala army” (129). Tamil women are turned into suicide bombers whose “desire for revenge was greater than their interest in life … A whole army of psychologists working tirelessly on them had shaped their impressionable minds” (253-4).
     The role of the artist in a violence-ridden context is discussed in detail in Mosquito. Theo is described as “a man for the Sri Lankan people, the kind of man that was desperately needed. They had heard all about his book and now there was to be a film too about the troubles in this place. It was good, she told her son, the world needed to hear about their suffering” (70). Later, Theo is abducted and tortured first by the army and then by the LTTE. War intrudes into Rohan’s glass-studio for the first time with his friend’s abduction. Shaken, he tells his Italian wife, “We must go back to Europe. I can’t live with this savagery” (159).
     Whatever the outcome of the war, it would leave deep physical and emotional scars on people. The old Tamil cook at the LTTE “detention” house tells Theo, “We cannot speak in normal voices ever again. Even if the peace comes … there is no peace for us” (241). At the end, a change of government brings a hiatus to the war. The narrator who wants the state to account for those who died in the North ironically says, “Suddenly paradise was the new currency. The island began to rescue itself, hoping to whitewash its bloody past” (266).[9]
      At the end of the day, in Love Marriage the term “Sri Lankans” stands for “Sri Lankan Tamils”, which exclude the other ethnicities from the term pointing to an extreme limitedness in the narrative perspective. In “A Conversation with V V Ganeshanathan”, the writer admits this shortcoming partly when she states, “The family in the book is a Jaffna Tamil family, and so there isn’t, for example, really the voice of the Sri Lankan Muslims in the novel” (298). Still, as Shelton Guneratne in his web article “Love Marriage by V V Ganeshanathan - A Book Review” states, “The book … fails to explicate the Sinhalese perspective on the ethnic conflict. [And Yalini] appears to believe that the Tamil Diaspora was the outcome of systematic discrimination by the Sinhalese”. For instance, the novel treats the University Standardization Act as a move towards ethnic discrimination ignoring the fact that it was basically an effort to allow those from the most underdeveloped provinces access to higher education.[10]The language proficiency test for government servants, which is actually a job requirement, too, is looked at as purely a discriminatory measure.
     Still, the novel records violence committed by Tamil militant groups as well. Though it is not explicitly stated, it is the killing of Yalini’s maternal grandfather, a retired government servant, by an unknown assassin that drives her mother away from the country. Similarly Kalyani’s son Haran’s schoolmaster “Arun … a gentleman, a scholar, an athlete” was killed by “a Tamil rebel … for arranging for a Tamil school to have a match with the Sri Lankan Army (131-2). Rajani’s father “a [Tamil] politician, was killed by them for daring to disagree with them. For daring to say that they did not speak for all Tamils, that they did not speak for him” (142). Her mother Lalitha would not visit Kumaran who was dying, for “[t]he Tigers killed her father about ten years ago. My grandfather. I never met him,” says Rajani (146). According to the narrator, Yalini’s LTTE mastermind uncle considered, “Women. Children. People … [as] the only real weapons” (163). For Kumaran, even Suthan’s drug cartel is acceptable, for it is done in the name of the cause. He even allows his daughter to marry Suthan. Yet, unlike the repeated and lengthy references to the inequities the Tamils supposed to have suffered at the hands of the Sinhalese, these incidents are limited to brief asides that require a careful study in order to unearth them. 
     However, within her chosen sample of emigrant Tamils, Ganeshanathan presents several opinions on the war. Talking to S. Mehta in “A Conversation with V.V. Ganeshanathan”, the writer acknowledges a sense of vocation to write about the war: “The more I learnt about the war the more I felt that I was compelled to say something about it, not in the voice of an activist, but in the voice of an artist” (Love Marriage 298). This attitude, however, hints at a premeditated didactic-ness or a political agenda that transcends mere story telling. In her book, Ganeshanathan points at two reasons for the tragic situation of some of the Tamils who are forced to leave the country. However, when it comes to naming and blaming, the narrator and other characters are quite prompt in pointing fingers at the Sinhalese as causing a Tamil exodus. Yet, the same eagerness is not displayed when it is a result of Tamil militancy. Moreover, the fact that Murali, Lakshman, and Rajani readily forgive Kumaran and the care and admiration they shower on him hints at the martyr concept promoted by the LTTE. Similarly, on the issue of a resolution, Yalini says, “Some day I will be able to walk into that country again, because they [her parents] walked out of it. When I do it will be a different place than the one they knew” (183). However, she is not explicit about in what way the country would be different. Hence, though there are fleeting moments of “cultural self-criticism” in the novel, they are largely beset by the atmosphere of “ethno-nationalism” permeating the entire narrative fabric of the novel.
     At the outset, Mosquito seems to offer a critique of both the LTTE and the army. Yet, as the narrative progresses, the repeated criticism of the Sinhalese by the Sinhalese takes the form of propaganda. All the Sinhalese characters engage repeatedly in “cultural self-criticisms” of their “ethno-nationalism” and the armed repression of the Other by the army.  Sugi warns his employer against falling prey to the often-quoted friendliness of the Sinhalese, “Don’t mistake our friendliness, Sir … We are quite capable of killing” (20). In addition, though violence against the Other is a weapon used by both ethnicities, violence of the LTTE is justified as a retaliatory measure through the story of Vikram. No criticism of the LTTE violence is made by the Sinhalese characters; they seem to accept them as their due or fait accompli. Moreover, the novel problematizes the “heroism” and the “patriotism” of the soldier. Nulani’s uncle is a chauvinistic bully who terrorizes women and children. The army is condemned as brutes by Sinhalese characters such as Sugi, Thercy, Theo, Nulani, and Rohan as well as Giulia, an Italian. The narrator presents Theo, Rohan, Giulia, and Nulani as the native/nativized informers to the West as well as to their own people. Yet, how little do these characters (and may be the writer as well) truly understand their milieu is in advertently revealed by some of the comments made by them on the issue of the war, i.e., Rohan who does not understand the socio-political implications of the language policy for both ethnicities, says, “They are killing each other … Day after day. Over which language is more important. Can you credit these stupid bastards” (94). Most significantly, the novel does not offer a space for a true dialogue between the two ethnicities.

CHAPTER IV: ARE THE WRITERS BEYOND LANGUAGE?
     This chapter engages in a brief comparative study of the three categories of novels discussed in Chapters I, II, and III in order to determine if they could be divided as “ethno-nationalistic” or engaged in “a project of cultural self-criticism”. In addition, an attempt is also made to determine the relationship between such division and the language used. 
     Considering the analysis made in Chapters I, II, and III, on the one hand, Kalu Dongkaraya, written by an ethnic Sinhalese writer, uses Meena, an ethnic Tamil narrator and ethnic Tamil characters like Rathnam to criticise Tamil militant activities in general and those of the LTTE in particular. Mosquito, written by an emigrant Tamil writer, allocates the greater portion of its narrative space to criticise the activities of the government’s armed forces and the “ethno-nationalism” of the Sinhalese. In the process, Tearne makes use of Sinhalese characters of the middleclass (Theo, Rohan, and Nulani) and the working class (Sugi and Thercy) as well as the omniscient narrator as agents of cultural self-criticism. In addition, though there are instances of violence committed by the LTTE, they are invariably made to look like results of the “ethno-nationalist” activities of the Sinhalese. Consequently, based on the narrative purpose of their writers, these two novels must be listed as engaged in “ethno-nationalistic” projects. Similarly, Love Marriage, for it lacks the voice of the Other, can generally be called “ethno-nationalistic” in its standpoint.
     In contrast, in Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, Dharmakirti makes use of the voice of the Other to criticise the discriminatory activities of the Sinhalese and to a lesser extent the violence practiced by the LTTE. The Road, too, despite its individualistic viewpoint, conducts a cultural criticism of the Other as well as the Self. Also, with its stories of victims and victimizers on both sides of the ethnic divide, Islandis indubitably a “cultural self-criticism”.
     Looking at the above organization, similar to the young Sinhalese poets mentioned by Liyanage Amarakeerthi, the authors of Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya (Sinhala), The Road (English), and Island (English) are indeed engaged in “a project of cultural self-criticism”. In contrast, the writers of Love Marriage (English), Mosquito (English), and Kalu Dongkaraya (Sinhala) can generally be called “ethno-nationalistic” in their narrative missions. Equally important is the fact that, contrary to the linguistically divided nature of the opinions held by the members of the English speaking part of the Sri Lankan community and those who use Tamil and/or Sinhala as their first language on the issue of war in the initial survey reported in the Introduction, it appears that the division of the novels as “ethno-nationalistic” or “culturally self-critical” clearly does not depend on the language used by the writer.
     Nevertheless, it must also be admitted that when looked at from some other perspectives, the above dichotomy, while generally legitimate, may appear reductive. For instance, all the novels, irrespective of the language used or the ethnicity of the writer, see Black July as a turning point in the history of the conflict. Also, all six books present the LTTE as a powerful presence that challenges socio-cultural norms of the Tamil society governing generational, gender, class, and caste relations in a troubling manner. Besides, in all the novels, the state Antonio Gramsci called “subalternity” is experienced by some Tamils not only at the hands of some Sinhalese but also at the hands of some Tamils, too. Yet, as shown by the murder of Lalitha’s father in Love Marriage, Sylvia Sunethra’s attitude towards Alice and the Sinhalese mob in Island, the situation of the Sinhalese factory and hospital workers in Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, and Menike’s marginal status in the North in Kalu Dongkaraya, subalternity is not limited to the Tamils.[11]  
     However, how much of emphasis is placed on an issue and where, when, and how these issues are mentioned (the centring and off-centring of events in the narrative) differ from novel to novel. For an example, on the issue of how post-war nation-building process and nation-ness are presented in the six novels under consideration, it is useful to look at Benedict Anderson definition of the concept of “nation” first. According to Anderson, a nation “is an imagined political community—and imagined as both inherently limited and sovereign” (Imagined Communities 5). However, according to scholars like S. J. Tambiah, R.A.L.H. Gunawardane, Gananath Obeyesekere, and Sharika Thiranagama, Sri Lankans have not been in possession of the notions of either the nation or of ethnicity, until recently.[12] Thiranagama in In My Mother’s House states, “the positing of stable ‘ethnic’ identities to these formally rather fluid labels, is itself the product of a more recent history of colonial historiography, the racialization of Sri Lanka’s diverse populations and postcolonial ethnic conflict and discrimination” (21). In contrast, both major and minor characters of all the novels make references to the presence of an already established sense of nation-ness that seems to predate the arrival of the Westerners. Those who are connected to the LTTE in the novels such as Lupus, Gerald, and Gopal in Mosquito, Kumaran in Love Marriage, Raja and Lakshmi in Kalu Dongkaraya, Indrakumar in Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, Kamala in The Road, and the LTTE cadres visiting schools in Island believe in an ancestral Tamil homeland. In Ginisiluwaka Sandaeliya, Nandani refers to stories of the war between King Elara and King Dutugemunu and the prowess of the Ten Giants as established childhood tales. In anthropological terms, the presence of “national myths” among the Sinhalese points to the presence of a perception of a “Sinhalese” nation-ness. Similarly, her reference to the Great Canon of Tamil literature acknowledges the presence of a consciousness of a “Tamil” nation-ness. Also, in Island, Vishaka calls the Lion Flag, “the ancient symbol of the Sinhalese” and Seeni Banda believes that the island had been handed over to the Sinhalese by Buddha, himself (10).[13] Kalu Dongkaraya, despite its “ethno-nationalistic” mission, offers a more complicated picture of nation-ness and nation building. In it, characters like Manike’s brother and Lakshmi are critical of inter-racial marriages and hybridity. This attitude is shown as injurious to ethnic harmony and nation-ness. Still, in the Tamil politicians, Sara, and Ram,[14] hybridity occupies an ethnic no-man’s land or exists as a state of perpetual turn-coat-ness. Yet, all these views on nation-ness are not equally privileged by their respective narratives. Kalu Dongkaraya, with its critique of hybridity, ends with Meena’s baby being breast-fed by a Sinhalese woman, a symbol of reconciliation and an inclusive nation-ness. Similarly, Anandan (Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya), Wasantha (The Road), and Vishaka (Island) who are closest to their creators, are clearly in support of ethnic co-existence in a unitary Sri Lanka notwithstanding the presence of characters conveying separatist ideologies in these novels.
     Similarly, in all the novels except Kalu Dongkaraya, the main characters consider nation-building and inclusive nation-ness as impossible during that particular period and opt for a diasporic existence. Yet, the novels vary in their treatment of the diasporic-ness of their characters. In The Road, Kamala who has been playing at going abroad is actually forced to go abroad. Wasantha, too, would have joined her, but Kamala warns him of the impossibility of such a union at that point in history. The “liberalist” characters of Mosquito and Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya choose to move out and stay out of the country. Both Love Marriage and Island see trouble at home following those who go abroad. Yalini feels that a life in another country should be a new beginning – not a diasporic existence. Yet, she is captivated by the Little Jaffna in Toronto and moved by stories of Jaffna life. At the end of the day, it is patent that Yalini and her family in Love Marriage and Ananda, Vishaka, Lanka, and Shiva in Island are bound to their communities of origin quite intimately. In fact, both Vishaka and Yalini intend to “return” from their diasporic exile at a favourable moment in history. However, despite its references to two mixed marriages, nation-ness in Love Marriage seems to be a hyphenated one: Tamil-Sri Lankans and Sinhalese-Sri Lankans. Island, in contrast, seems to propose a deeper merging of ethnicities. Yet, contrary to what her novel seems to posit, in the first e-mail interview, commenting on the issue of whether Samudra’s hybrid identity calls for a hybrid Sri Lankan society, Nayomi Munaweera states, “She is indeed a hybrid which is hopeful I think but I am not calling for this as a sort of movement or suggesting this is necessary. People do not need to marry and have kids to get beyond their ethnic prejudices I hope” (Appendix 1).
     On the issue of war, all the novels look at it as destructive. Kalu Dongkaraya, Mosquito, Love Marriage, The Road, and Island, present the war as evil. Somak Ghoshal in his web review of Island says, “Munaweera chronicles the human cost of war with a clinical, if grisly, precision. At their best, the war chapters bring to mind…Adichie’s acclaimed novel of the Biafran conflict, Half of a Yellow Sun”. In the second e-mail interview Nayomi Munaweera states, “My book's major purpose (if a book can be said to have one) is that both communities suffered tremendously and that neither gained form this war” (Appendix 3). However, while Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, Mosquito and Love Marriage look at the war as a reaction to the oppression of the minority by the majority and call for an international intervention to initiate a resolution, Kalu Dongkaraya, The Road, and Island seem to see the war as the only solution to terrorism at that moment in time.     
     Consequently, despite the fact that they deal with the same variables such as ethnicity, discrimination, war, terrorism, nation-ness, reconciliation, etc., the overall impact created by a novel is a result of how these variables are centred or off centred in the development of the novel’s narrative sequence, resulting, on this occasion, in an impression of either an “ethno-nationalistic” or a “culturally self-critical” leaning in the writer.[15] Hence, the two categories reached at the beginning based on the narrative viewpoint and the ethnicity of the writer can still be accepted despite the presence of the complications discussed above. Furthermore, as pointed out at the beginning of this chapter, it is my belief that socioeconomic factors which govern the life of a writer (of which language is only a part), his/her geopolitical location, market trends, and the intended readership determine the way s/he structures and executes his/her work. Thus, the next chapter would be dedicated to a brief survey of some of the factors that seem to induce writers to transcend ideologies popularly associated with their linguistic choices/biases in the process of fictional representation.

CHAPTER V: CONCLUSION
     In In My Mother’s House, an anthropological study of the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict, Sharika Thiranagama states, “People decide and select stories to tell structured by particular political and social perspectives” (5). Similarly, in choosing events for his/her story, a writer privileges one possible way of representing an event over many other ways of doing it. Representation, in this sense, is a series of socio-political choices. Consequently, in order to understand what makes the writers of Kalu Dongkaraya, Mosquito, and Love Marriage more or less “ethno-nationalistic” and those of Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, The Road, and Island “culturally self-critical” in their standpoint, it is useful to look at the writers’ socioeconomic background (ethnicity, education, class, etc.), geopolitical location, market trends and the intended readership. Hopefully, this would shed some much needed light on what the fictionality of fictions helps to keep obscure.
     As Gananath Obeyesekere in the Forward to In My Mother’s House says:
Few outside Sri Lanka know that alongside ethnic conflict there was another internal conflict in which Sinhala youths took up arms against the government initially in 1971 and, when this failed, yet another three-year conflict in the 1980s … This conflict resulted in the loss of 60,000 lives according to current estimates … [However, u]nlike the ethnic conflict, virtually nothing of significance has been written on the short span of pain and fear erupting during the JVP youth based insurrection. (xi-xii)
 This disparity in the treatment of the JVP insurgency and the ethnic conflict is present in the realm of fiction as well. While the former has largely been sidelined as an internal affair earning the government-then just frowns and reprimands from the international community, the latter has from the very beginning caught both national and international attention. Consequently, the ideological demands made by this internationalized local conflict seem to have aroused intense reactions in novelists of both Sinhalese and Tamil communities.
     On the one hand, novels of ethnic Tamil novelists writing in English convey a viewpoint that is largely “ethno-nationalistic” for their sympathetic handling of the Tamil militant cause, the often uncritical denigration of the Sinhalese as a race, and the unwillingness to give adequate space to the voice of the Other. Interestingly, except A. Shanthan whose novel The Whirlwind that deals with the IPKF occupation, no local Tamil writer writing in English has made a notable contribution to the new genre of the Sri Lankan war novel. Considering the large input on the theme of war by Tamil poets in both Tamil and English, it would be a worthwhile effort to study the reasons for the non-contribution of local Tamil novelists working in English towards this theme. Therefore, both novels by Tamil writers chosen for the study are by emigrant Tamil writers.
     “Ethno-nationalism” in the work of both V.V. Ganeshanathan and Roma Tearne is clearly a result of their ethnic identity. Interestingly, both Tearne (Britain) and Ganeshanathan (the USA) claim bicultural identities in the commentaries they make on their work despite the fact that they have had very little contact with Sri Lanka.[16] The writer, in the web article “Q&A with V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage”, on the goal of Love Marriage, states: “The Sri Lankan diaspora’s political views are sometimes understood as two opposite poles with nothing in between. But there are so many communities and opinions and conversations out there. It’s important to create room for dissent in any dialogue and this one in particular”. Still, Ganeshanathan owns up to her unfamiliarity of Sri Lanka and therefore works within her limitations by focussing her narrative on the emigrant Tamil experience in the West. Thus, as in the case of her narrator, Yalini, the narrative of Ganeshanathan could be read as an attempt to come to terms with her own doubly hyphenated identity as a Tamil-Sri Lankan-American. In contrast, Tearne in her web article “October 8, 1950” says, “I have never been back. For after my parents' death, it seemed pointless to seek out a place that had so little love to offer”. Yet, she claims a sense of allegiance towards the Tamil community in Sri Lanka which according to her is being routinely discriminated against by the majority ethnicity. She also considers her diasporic location as an ideal vantage point from which she can “objectively” comment on the conflict. For this reason, in her blog “Still Counting the Dead”, Tearne recognizes a “passionate commitment” in Frances Harrison exposé, Still Counting the Dead, “for the vanished dead of Sri Lanka’s killing fields” and expresses a wish to achieve a similar end through her own work. However, similar to her protagonists, Theo and Nulani, Tearne attempts to inform her Western readership of an experience which she has no real connection with, and thereby critically compromises the realism of her representation. 
       On the other hand, among the work of ethnic Sinhalese writers writing in both Sinhala and English based in Sri Lanka and abroad there are examples of both “ethno-nationalism” and “cultural self-criticism”. Karunadasa Sooriyaarachchi, a senior journalist and the former editor of Silumina, in a telephone interview stated that he had been displeased by “a number of erroneous views circulated by some NGOs about the armed forces” and “the positive portrayal of the armed forces in the Final War in Kalu Dongkaraya is an attempt to rectify such views” (Appendix 5, my translation). The novelist had handed over his work to the Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksha as well as President Mahinda Rajapaksha. Consequently, both his ethnicity as well as his political ideology seems to be behind the “ethno-nationalism” of Sooriaarachchis’ remarkable narrative.[17]
 
Fig. 9. Sooriyaarachchi handing over his work to the President
     In contrast, Ranjith Dharmakirti, Nayomi Munaweera, and Nihal de Silva who also happen to be Sinhalese, are clearly “liberal humanist” in their socio-political outlook. In the preface to his novel, Dharmakirti, a Colombo-based bilingual dramatist-writer, confesses to an initial desire to avenge the harassment his own family had undergone in 1958 at the hands of Tamil extremists, a desire which he says that he had outgrown due to his upbringing. In a telephone interview held on 30th January 2014, his education, religion, as well as his involvement in literary activities had been pointed out by Dharmakirti as the reasons behind his self-critical standpoint on the theme of war and the ethnic conflict, in general. In the same interview, explaining the absence of any overt references to the war in his novel, he stated, “I’m against war … Unlike Gunadasa Amarasekara, my friend, who is one of the worst chauvinists … all great writers - like Anton Chekhov - are against war”.
     Nayomi Munaweera defines herself as a “bifurcated writer” whose input could only be “a valuable addition to the literature written from within the country” (Appendix 3, my italics). In this sense she is claiming to add another perspective to the native canon instead of presenting herself as an expert witness on Sri Lanka. In addition, Munaweera, as a diasporic Sinhalese writer, seems to derive a sense of proportion on the conflict due to her physical distance from Sri Lanka which is complemented by her yearly visits to the island. In her first e-mail interview, she says, “I suppose in some respects there is that---in that the Sinhalese are the majority ethnicity and just in that identity there might be the feeling that we are complicit in the workings of power” (Appendix 1). Moreover, she also says, “in America I am clearly part of a tiny ethnic minority” – a status which seems to make it possible for her to relate to the issue from the perspective of the Other (Appendix 1). According to Munaweera her “book's major purpose (if a book can be said to have one) is [to illustrate] that both communities suffered tremendously and that neither gained form this war” (Appendix 1). Most significantly, she expresses a certainty that “both communities feel a level of self criticism” (Appendix 1). Therefore, as she states in the second e-mail interview, the book may very well be a result of her attempt as “a Sri Lankan[-American] who didn't live there through the war years” to “understand what it must have felt like to do so” (Appendix 3).
   The Road considers the war as a waste of human potential and calls for ethnic coexistence. This view is clearly a product of the liberalist socio-political outlook generated by the writer’s specific socioeconomic and geopolitical background as an urban bilingual middleclass Sri Lankan man with a Westernized education who also happened to be a Christian. Nihal de Silva had received his primary and secondary education from St. Joseph's College, Colombo. He had also read for a bachelor’s degree at University of Ceylon, an acknowledged stronghold of liberalist thinking. According to his friend Elmo Jayawardene, De Silva, as a successful businessman, had taken up writing in order to keep himself occupied during his impending retirement.
     However, it must also be noted that all four writers writing in English have distanced themselves from the theme of war and have moved to other themes immediately after their controversial first books. This is especially disturbing when one considers Tearne’s self-professed devotion to the “cause” of the Sri Lankan Tamil community.
     On the influence of the intended readership and market trends, all the English novels are debut novels on the theme of war written at the height of the war and published by Western/ Western-market-oriented publishing houses.[18] These novels boldly challenge what is often called the majority discourse on the war by either engaging in self-criticisms and/or by giving voice to the views supposedly held by the ethnic minority. Neluka Silva, in The Gendered Nation, states:
Some literary texts consciously strive to challenge the dominant discourses of history by pointing to their constructedness and by unearthing suppressed voices. Such vision of history may bring to the surface the plight of marginalized groups: the economically underprivileged, ethnic and/or religious minorities, or women. (44)
 
Fig. 10. Love Marriage, reading
Yet, by virtue of the language used, prices of the books, where events on the books are held, etc. these books are inaccessible to a significant part of the very subjects of these books. Thus, who these writers are writing to and for what real purpose are two questions worth asking. 

   
                              Fig. 11. Island, book launch                                          
 On this regard, postcolonial writers are often received by their Western readerships as native informers instead of fiction writers.[19] A quick look at the critical reviews and citations for awards generated by the four narratives establishes this as a fact.[20] Among the reviews published on Mosquito on the Amazon buyers’ website, Christopher Ondaatje is quoted stating: “Roma Tearne’s first novel of love and war is … one of the first to expose the horror and misunderstandings of a civil war that seems to have no end and is taxing the fragile survival of a beautiful island paradise” (My italics). Similarly, in her web article “Praise of Love Marriage”, Ganeshanathan quotes New York Magazine stating that the novel is “an ambitious family drama about an underreported part of the world” (My italics). In response to this trend, many postcolonial writers anthropologize their work. In my view, the four writers writing in English, at least to a certain degree, are consciously making use of the ethnic conflict, a highly inflammable and therefore vastly marketable theme, as a means of making a grand entrance to a career in writing in the West. Kwame Anthony Appiah in In My Father’s House commenting on this trend states:
Postcoloniality is the condition of what we might ungenerously call a comprador intelligentsia: of a relatively small, Western-style, Western-trained, group of writers and thinkers who mediate the trade in cultural commodities of the world capitalism at the periphery. In the West they are known through the Africa they offer; their compatriots know them both through the West they present to Africa and through Africa that they have invented for the world, for each other, and for Africa. (149)        
However, Munaweera, in the second e-mail interview, forestalling this charge, states: “I think writers write about the things that obsess and consume them … I didn't actively choose this subject, it sort of chose me which is the common experience of writers” (Appendix 3). Similarly, in her web article “Wrote a Story, Not the Whole Story”, commenting on the issue Gaeshanathan states, “I also know … that regardless of the caveats I put before what I say, my words may carry the weight of an imagined community”. To be fair, the truth of such claims needs to be given the benefit of the doubt. Yet, as in some of the secondary sources quoted/referred to in this section, on many occasions, Ganeshanathan, Munaweera, and Tearne, themselves, have acknowledged an anthropological interest as the driving force behind their work.    
    In addition, it seems that Munaweera, Tearne, and Ganeshanathan present an exoticized narrative for the consumption of their Western/Westernized readership. In Island, the author hints at extreme forms of colour and caste prejudices in addition to discriminations of ethnic nature in Sri Lanka through Beatrice’s reaction to Mala and the sweeper. Tearne employs a re-Orientalistic point of view in her narrative. Like in most novels by Western writers such as Kipling, Woolf, Spittel, etc. on the East, in Mosquito, Sri Lanka is presented as a cornucopia to the senses and a place of mystique and irrational violence. There are the menus for exotic breakfasts, luncheons, and dinners that should put Romesh Gunawardene’s Reef to shame as well as references to over-ripe fruits, tropical flowers, garbage, and swarms of insects on almost every page. In addition to the war, the book fairly teems with references to casual acts of violence such as soldiers burning the victims of the festival accident who had been left to die unattended by their fellow devotees, the severed arm lying in the coconut grove, the massacre at crossroads, the body hanging from the tamarind tree, Sugi’s death, the garage owner’s daughter’s rape, threatening telephone calls, etc. Tearne adds a touch of Oriental mystery to the book through her references to the ritual human sacrifices conducted in Aida’s Grove, many headed/handed gods enshrined in stupa attended by bare-footed saffron robed astrologer priests, and men who “walked over red-hot coals or swung themselves on metal hooks across the coconut trees” as penance for indescribable sins (62).
     In an attempt to fashion the writer’s own Self in a way that befits the exoticized content of her work, in the writer’s biography to HarperCollins edition of Mosquito, Tearne is described as follows: “Roma Tearne fled Sri Lanka at the age of ten, travelling to Britain where she has spent most of her life” (n.p., my italics). In “October 8, 1950”, a web article, Tearne drops the italicised term in favour of the phrase, “A few years later [in 1963], as open war broke out, we left by a boat for England” (My italics). Similar often misleading descriptions of herself and her family given in her blog/website seem to be aimed at creating an image of an exotic persecuted writer who is in possession of “authentic” information on what she is writing in the minds of her intended Western readership. In contrast, De Silva’s descriptions of fauna, flora, and the landscape, being an integral element of the narrative strategy, contribute greatly to the development of the narrative. The narrative of Love Marriage, too, is free from exoticism. However, the selection of cover pictures used for the original English version of the novel, the audio book, and the various translations is an unabashed attempt at exoticization that belies the content of the novel.
            
                                           Fig.12. English             Fig.13. Italian                  
A similar quality is seen in the two covers used for Roma Tearne’s Mosquito and that of Island.
 
                  Fig. 14. Mosquito                    Fig. 15. Mosquito                  Fig.16. Island     
In contrast, the two books written in Sinhala do not display this tendency towards exoticization in their narratives. In addition, Sooriyaarachchi’s cover picture captures the essence of his narrative at a glance. While the cover of the first edition of Dharmakirti’s novel has some traces of the exotic in it, he moves towards the stance employed by Sooriyaarachchi in the second edition of the novel. The reason behind the non-exoticized narratives and cover pictures in the two novels could be that the readership of the novels written in Sinhala is local, which in general does not respond positively towards exoticization.   
 
                                   Fig.17. Kalu Dongkaraya      Fig.18. Ginisiluwaka, first edition
     Interestingly, all English books have either won or been nominated for prestigious awards.[21] According to the official web site of the Grataen Trust, the Grataen Prize had been awarded to The Road in 2003, among other things, “for its convincing demonstration that resolution of conflict and reconciliation of differences are feasible through mutual experience and regard”. In this sense, the award confirms the worldview projected by the novelist through the narrative. Thus, the nominations and the awards won by the other three English novels as well as Kalu Dongkaraya must be seen as confirmations of their narrative missions. 
     In addition, Love Marriage and Island are being published internationally by multiple publishers indicating a widespread market appeal. Also, so far Love Marriage has been translated into five languages. Munaweera’s novel is read as a text in the English Honours Programme at the University of Peradeniya. The Road, first written in English, too, has been translated into Sinhala heeding popular demands. It had also been included as a text in the current GCE Advanced Level syllabus and made into a film by the award-wining film maker Chandran Ratnam. By 2011, the English version of The Road was in its eleventh reprint. Recently, there have been some demands for the novel to be translated into Tamil as well. Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya, is already in its second edition. Moreover, the novel has also been translated into English as Moon and the Flame, recently - a rare event for a Sinhala novel. These developments, together with the awards, indicate an affirmation of or an interest in the writer’s handling of his/her work by his/her socioeconomic and geopolitical institutions. 
     In conclusion, as stated in the introduction, Fredric Jameson’s claim about third-world texts being “an allegory of the embattled situation of the public third-world culture and society” (Social Text 69) is confirmed by the sustained interest in the theme of war and the ethnic conflict by the novels studied as well the way they are received by their critics and the reading public. Yet, according to the conclusion arrived at in the survey made in this section, “ethno-nationalistic” or “culturally self-critical” standpoints in these novels are indisputably results of conscious and compulsive manipulations of the “embattled situation” by their writers under the influence of their socioeconomic backgrounds, geo-political location, market trends, and the intended readership. Therefore, contrary to the popular belief (which is often cultivated consciously by writers themselves) that writers are a class unto themselves fashioned in the Olympian mould and moved only by their Muses, they, too, seem to be very much the subjects of the same socio-political processes that control the lives of the hoi polloi.
Works Cited

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Appiah, Kwame Anthony. In My Father’s House. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1992.
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De Silva, Nihal. The Road from Elephant Pass. Colombo: Vijitha Yapa, 2011.
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Dhrmakeerthi, Ranjith. E-mail interview. 31 January 2014.
---. Ginisiluwaka Sanda Eliya. Nugegoda: Sakila, 2009.
---. Telephone interview. 30 January 2014.
Fernando, Laksiri. “Revisiting ‘Elephant Pass’ for Ethnic Reconciliation in Sri Lanka” <http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2012/01/04/revisiting-%E2%80%98elephant-pass%E2%80%99-ethnic-reconciliation-sri-lanka>
Ganeshanathan, V.V. “I Wrote Story, Not the Whole Story”. 13 July 2008. <http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2008/07/11/AR2008071102389.html/>

---. Love Marriage. New York: Random House, 2008.

---. “Praise of Love Marriage”. <http://vasugi.com/reviews/>
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Munaweera, Nayomi. E-mail interview. 24 Jan. 2014.
---, E-mail interview. 31Jan. 2014.
---. Island of Thousand Mirrors. Colombo: Perera Hussein, 2012.
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Sandya. “Q&A with V.V. Ganeshananthan, author of Love Marriage”. 23 April 2008 <http://sepiamutiny.com/blog/2008/04/23/talking_with_vv/ >
Silva, Neluka. The Gendered Nation. New Delsi, Sage, 2004.
Sooriyaarachchi, Karunadasa. Kalu Donkaraya. Colombo: Dayawansa Jayakodi, 2009.
---. Telephone interview. 30 Jan. 2014.
“Sri Lanka anti-war group calls for negotiations” <http://english.peopledaily.com.cn/200703/20/eng20070320_359109.html>
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Tearne, Roma. “Brixton Beach”. <http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/2009/jul/04/brixton-beach-roma-tearne-review>

---. Mosquito. New Delhi: HarperCollins, 2007. 

---. “Still Counting the Dead”. <http://romatearne.blogspot.com/>

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     London: Routledge, 2004.

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---. Telephone interview. 30 Jan. 2014.
Fernando, Laksiri. “Revisiting ‘Elephant Pass’ for Ethnic Reconciliation in Sri Lanka” <http://www.asiantribune.com/news/2012/01/04/revisiting-%E2%80%98elephant-pass%E2%80%99-ethnic-reconciliation-sri-lanka>
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---. “Still Counting the Dead”. <http://romatearne.blogspot.com/>

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[1] Novels that deal with the armed conflict between the SL Armed Forces and the LTTE and its impact on the civilian population as one of their main themes 
[2] Quotations in Chapter 1 are my translations
[3] What I mean by this term is the fear of the ethnic Other
[4] According to Sharika Thiranagama, “There were multiple reasons why young people had felt alienated from their families and society, from unemployment to intra-family pressure and conflict. But the move towards militancy was formed around a collective story and reality of anti-Tamil discrimination, which gave a framework in which one could situate one’s own biography” (In My Mother’s House 209-10).
[5] The Tamils … were established in commerce, public service and the professions … [were] edged out of their niches as the state were largely Sinhalicized and the economy was partly socialized (Moor 1990 390). (Thiranagama 22)
[6] However, Frances Harrison in Still Counting the Dead records Karu, a Tamil seeking asylum in Australia, giving quite a different picture of the kind of treatment the Tamils had received at Government hospitals.
[7] Neluka Silva in The Gendered Nation states: The anxiety to maintain the ideal of virginity is a part of a social construction that stems from the fear that the single, sexual woman liberally allows her body to be abused, translated in larger terms as the metaphor for prostituting the nation to the foreign investor/coloniser, outsider, or the enemy within. (32)
[8]  Tiyakam, the Tamil word the LTTE uses to describe death in battle/combat, is not martyrdom in the Christian sense; it means in Tamil ‘abandonment,’ the voluntary abandonment of life … The tiyaki is s/he who dies while killing, abandoning life” (Thiranagama 215).
[9] The writer expresses a similar sentiment in her blogsite, too.
[10] “University standardization in 1972 and the restrictions of Tamil entry into university hit Jaffna in particular with its highly educated and aspirational population” however “[s]tandardization by district actually opened up education  for eastern Tamils and Muslims who had previously seen Tamil medium education dominated by Jaffna Tamils and Muslims” (Thiranagama 194, 268)
[11] On the relationship between ethnicity and class in Sri Lanka, R.A.L.H. Gunawardane says, “Under conditions where class divisions cut across ethnic groups and ethnic divisions cut across social classes, precedence gained by one category would militate against the development of a consciousness associated with the other” (Historiography in a Time of Ethnic Conflict 6).
[12] K.N.O. Dharmadasa in “People of the Lion: Ethnic Identity, Ideology and Historical Revisionism in Contemporary Sri Lanka” convincingly argues against this idea.
[13] Gordon Weiss records an incident suggesting a criticism of this sentiment: Archaeologists and historians, sanctioned by the government, unleashed on the conquered territory and possibly funded by UNESCO, will supply academic legitimacy for the ‘re-territorialisation’ of Sri Lanka … Just two weeks after Prabakharan’s death, the president’s wife unveiled a statue of Sanghamiththa … The statue now sits in the middle of one of the HSZs, in the heart of Tamil Jaffna. (The Cage 256)
[14] Sara and Ram are outcomes of an inter-ethnic marriage
[15] These two concepts need not be mutually exclusive.
[16] In contrast, Thiranagama, on the difficulties faced by a diasporic writer, says, “I experienced the very real sensation that I, like many others abroad, lived in memories, inadequate to the task of comprehending what had happened in Sri Lanka in the 1990s” (In My Mother’s House 2).
[17] The novel had been nominated for Swarna Pusthaka Award for 2010, the year immediately after the Final War.
[18] Mosquito – HarperCollins, The Road – Vijitha Yapa, and Island – Perera and Hussein and Hachette India, Love Marriage – Random House (the USA), Garzanti (Italy), JC Lattes (France), Weidenfeld & Nicholson (the UK and associated territories), Rao (Romania), Random House (Germany), Hachette (India), and Stylos (Serbia).
[19] Fredric Jameson had indicated, the Western readership do not seem to read books by Western writers about the West for anthropological information on Western life.
[20] In the critical reviews dealing with novels written in Sinhala, the two writers are treated mainly as social critics, instead of artists.
[21] Mosquito, shortlisted for the populist 2007 Costa Book Awards first Novel prize, Love Marriage, longlisted for the Orange Prize, named one of the Washington Post Book World's Best of 2008, and selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers Pick, Island of a Thousand Mirrors, long listed for Man Asian Literary Prize 2012, shortlisted for Commonwealth Prize of 2013, and Shortlisted for DSC Prize of 2014, The Road from Elephant Pass, won the State Literary Award for the Best Novel of 2003, the Gratiaen Prize of 2003, and IMPAC Dublin Literary Award of 2005.

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