This is what he cooked up
I do not know its title and that is just as well. It is better to say that I do not remember its title.
But Romesh Gunasekera, a British writer, who has no real writing portfolio if he was not of Sri Lankan origin, wrote a book last year.
It wasn’t one I wanted to read, not particularly, not in any way really.
But I was surprised that somebody had kept a copy lying around as if it was essential reading for me.
I did eventually, but the fact that I did not go anywhere near reading the book to a finish says much I think, at least of what I think of Romesh Gunasekera’s effort. What I think, I say, meaning strictly my personal view, and I’m in agreement that that does not mean some others might think the same way of his Whatever-you-may-call-it latest title.
But this much can be said.
I will stand by what I say. Not just that, I will also try to pinpoint the reasons I think the author should have tried something else other than writing this book I’m focusing on, or something else other than writing anything at all, ever
I will stand by what I say. Not just that, I will also try to pinpoint the reasons I think the author should have tried something else other than writing this book I’m focusing on, or something else other than writing anything at all, ever.
Not that Romesh Gunasekera is unreadable, which is a lot that can be said of him in comparison to a lot of others who write on Sri Lankan subjects.
Romesh Gunasekera especially in this effort that I’m talking about can be read bit by bit.
When you return to the book every once in a while, you might find that you might have forgotten an earlier episode and want to go back and read what you had read previously.
But I tolerated that inconvenience because of the things Gunasekera wrote in the book and not because of how he wrote it.
For example, he wrote that he went to Jaffna, after the war had ended.
He had much to say about the place, but the one or two things that he says about the soldiers in Jaffna are right out of his imagination. Which is fine except for the fact that it is not fine at all.
For instance, in one of his stories, he has a Reverend Father visit Jaffna, with the task of tracking down some Major or some such top brass in the Army.
Now all that is fine, and if a gentlemen of the cloth wants to meet soldiers who had done their tour of duty on the battlefield, though nobody would await the outcome with bated breath, generally who cares?
But Romesh has the Reverend Father go to Jaffna, have a meal with the Major or whatever the top brass is in rank (I do forget), and discovers that the man had murdered somebody back when he was moonlighting in his home village.
At least the plot of one story goes something like this, and since Gunasekera’s work is for the most part forgettable this writer needs to wrack his brains to recall the details…
But yes, it does go something like that. So, here is this author from England taking great pains to show that Sri Lankan army men particularly at the top are bad eggs, and eh, they can and will be murderers too.
Surprised? Not in the least. For starters, this is probably the only way that Gunasekera can find to sell one of his Sri Lanka books these days. He has worn the exotic island cliche threadbare and so what else can he do except to bad mouth what is for the most part, a very disciplined army?
The next thing you know in his book is the fact that he depicts soldiers at sentry points in Jaffna as cigarette puffing rabble, who could not care to raise their visages and look people in the eye when they go about their work — Well because they are too busy puffing their ciggies.
How is it, that Gunasekera goes to Jaffna and sees things that no other person sees in that part of the country?
It is simple. The dishonest yarn spinner sees what he wants to see, and no doubt his stock answer will be that these are after all yarns and should in no way construed to be rooted in reality.
In which case, Goonesekera should have been writing about the fictional village of Dos in the fictional desert land of Gumba, but no he has to base his little vignettes in Sri Lanka of all places, and post war Sri Lanka at that.
Pathetic seems to be the closet possible description for attempting to sell a novel or two this way, but then the British publishers wouldn’t know anything about any of this and they couldn’t care less either.
The good side to all this is that not many people read Romesh Goonesekra, and that remains so even if you hit them with a compilation of his work on Sri Lanka and tell people to read it, or else.
What can Gonesekera’s tactic at book selling, if it is indeed that be called? Is it intellectual dishonesty or is it plain cynical hog standard expediency?
I would certainly prefer to go with the latter as it is very clear that Gunasekera does not want to portray anything close to the truth in his ‘fiction.’
Fiction it is said to be, but for fiction which is based on something that is touted as being close to the facts, his brand of writing is not just plain dishonest it also gives a bad name to Sri Lanka watchers in general including the genuine variety.
It is also a particularly vile brand of hard-boiled cynicism that must compel a person with however tenuous a connection to the country Sri Lanka, to exploit those bearings to ridicule hard working soldiers who deserve at least to be recognized for what they are not cigarette smoking-wastrels, who are in the job because they are love the militia life and are so fed up anyway that they don’t care what they are doing – hence the smoking and the murdering.
The joke however is not on the soldiers.
They can live with being called all types of names and being generally vilified, because when it comes from Gunaskera, they wouldn’t even hear of a word of what he wrote. (Gumba who?).
The joke is on the writer of this kind of desultory stuff that bears no resemblance to the truth, and is therefore not fact, is pretending to be the truth and is therefore not fiction, and being none of the above, not ‘faction’ either …