Let’s Put a Stop to the Galle Literary Festival
I’ve been noticing a sort of trend of thought recently in regard to the GLF and the people that organize it. Namely that it’s an elitist piece of foreign trash that has been foisted on the unsuspecting citizens of Galle in particular, and Sri Lanka in general. It doesn’t represent True Sri Lankan Culture, and according to one Galle Blogger doesn’t do anything to help the culturally challenged victims of Galle. So what use is it? It’s just a bunch of foreigners and some Colombo English writers who pretend to be Sri Lankan, right? They even forgot to invite the Local Writers. And they didn’t let local journalists interview Gore Vidal. Why, you ask? Well, just because the local journos have never heard of Gore Vidal and never bothered to read his books before arriving in Galle, hot and thirsty, shouldn’t they be allowed to ask him silly questions about Sinhalese literature?
The Sunday Observer article I’ve linked to above is actually a sanitised version of the longer piece that appeared on page 32 of the February 3rd 2008 issue, written by Indeewara Thilakarathne and Ranga Chandrarathne (I can find no sign of the original version in the online edition). In it, the authors’ main grouse seems to be that since Sinhalese and Tamil are the state languages, anything written in English can’t really be termed Sri Lankan literature:
I want to emphasise here that those distinguished Sri Lankan writers in the festival brochures belong to a very representative elite class of writers or “scholars of the old type steeped in an exclusively English milieu,” hence, it is in a way, incorrect to consider them as Sri Lankan writers.
And since local authors and poets (those who don’t write in English) weren’t invited, obviously the festival organizers have never heard of them, and therefore logically are culturally illiterate.
Now, I had a look at the GLF’s website and I can’t find anything that says this is a Sri Lankan literature festival. I reckon Thilakarathne & Chandrarathne would probably want the next Cricket World Cup held in Sri Lanka to be a Sri Lankan World Cup between Real Sri Lankan Cricketers and no bloody foreigners or English-speaking Van Dorts. I guess those two journos would expect a motor show held in Sri Lanka to have only Micros and Upali Fiats. Funnily though, the Sunday Observer’s masthead claims it’s Sri Lanka’s English Newspaper With The Largest Circulation. But is it Sri Lankan? Not according to Thilakarathne & Chandrarathne.
In fact, in the newspaper version of their article, T&C suggest that:
We are of the opinion that the organisers of the GLF could embrace a hybrid approach for 2009, where literature of both east and west are represented including a good sample of Tamil and Sinhala writings. If this is not a feasible, then the organisers could explore other options. One option is venturing into another island nation to continue the elite and exclusive literary festival focusing on English writing of a chosen group!
So if you can’t include Sinhalese and Tamil, bugger off, GLF. Clear?
Next time, let’s all give the GLF a hefty kick in the balls by making it into something like the sorry excuse for a State Literary Award that the Ministry of Culture holds each year. Let’s hold it in Anuradhapura in a Maha Vidyalaya, not provide any infrastructure for the laureates, don’t have any attendees (‘cos no one’s heard of the State Lit), and have the authors sit around for hours, listening to ministers who can barely read a newspaper headline give long-winded speeches on how Guy de Maupassant wrote The Old Man and the Sea. That’s a good idea.
Now is the GLF obliged to include Sinhalese and Tamil works in an international literature festival that is being held in Sri Lanka? Of course not. It is, however, useful to include works of literature from the host country, and it has, in abundance. English ones, which seems to be the pinch. Now, I suppose the GLF could pay lip service to these nationalist anti-elitist Real Sri Lankan Cultural Champions by having a fringe event on Sinhalese and Tamil literature (sort of like the Foreign Language Film section at the Oscars). But should it?
Will the inclusion of Sinhalese literature in its original form at an international literature festival, do anything for Sinhalese writing? I only mention Sinhalese, because Tamil has tens of millions of readers worldwide and is in a different league from Sinhalese. Will there be academics, scholars, and lowly readers beating at our Cultural Gates, begging to be taught Sinhalese so that they can read our great works? I think not. If Sinhalese authors wish to reach a wider audience (which doesn’t speak Sinhalese) they must have their work translated. Into English, French, or Spanish, the world’s most widely spoken second languages. A good avenue to do this is the GLF, which is a sort of literary gateway between Sri Lanka and the world. So instead of demanding that the GLF castrate itself, how about demanding that Real Local Authors grow some balls and get there work translated into English so that the world can decide how good they really are.
Now on the subject that the GLF must be a source of aid to Sri Lanka’s poor, as Galle Blogger suggested in his response to one of my earlier posts, I must ask what the hell for. Perhaps I missed the fact that the Oscars were set up to aid poor Mexican immigrants in California, or that the Cannes Film Festival had the starrving of North Africa in mind when it settled itself on the French Rivera. I thought the GLF was set up to celebrate English literature. Silly elitist me.
Sri Lanka seems to be a land of jealousy, where if you can’t think of a solution to your problems you do your best to fuck up those who are solving their own problems. Since our journalistic pundits can’t find a way to promote Real Sri Lankan Culture (whatever that is), they want to stop English writers getting ahead.
So GLF, if you’re reading this, you better shape up and fly Mihin. That’s if you want the Guardians of Real Sri Lankan Culture that inhabit Lake House (and apparently a internet cafe in Galle) to give you a pat on the back. Keep up the elitist, high-falooting standards of international imperial racist Christian homosexual lilly white right wing AmericanEnglishEuropeandoublestandards andwe’lltossyououtonyourfaggot backsides.