Before the start of the DSC Prize 2016, there was a brief squabble between the Prime Minister’s Security Division (PMSD) and the organizers of the Prize giving due to PMSD occupying the media desk allotted to the organizers. The argument came to an end with both parties agreeing to share the desk. Such was the level of coordination at the Galle Literary Festival. There was little coordination between media, attendees and GLF organizers, resulting in most people missing out on lot of important events just because they didn’t know where to go

The Galle Fort, already rich in its historical and archeological heritage, added atmosphere to the event. The participants enjoyed the opportunity of experiencing rich culture, all courtesy of Galle Literary Festival, which concluded last Sunday. Held in Galle from January 13 to 17, the event was graced by many local and international authors, journalists, architects, poets, artists and many other renowned personalities in various disciplines. It included architectural excursions, cookery classes, series of writing workshops, panel discussions, literary discussions, movies, performances and musical events.

Behind the Hall de Galle was an outdoor food court assembled for the occasion, with a variety of food and beverage pavilions. The food court seating included chairs, and pillows, and blankets on the floor, which attendees enjoyed as they listened to the musical notes floating from the live band, ‘The At Last Project’. The young talents Dilan Jayakody and Naomi Wijemanne provided a lively entertainment that suited the occasion.

The attendance by the younger generation showed a stark decline this year, reinforcing the fact that today’s youth is moving away from books and reading. The majority of the attendees were from the ‘English speaking’ segment, and older generation at that. As one young resident of Galle Fort, who wished to remain anonymous, pointed out, “this year’s idea is all right, but the previous festival was much more interesting. The business community of Galle is very much benefitted. This year they have taken a step forward and organized more free events. Also, they have included events that incorporated Sinhala and Tamil literature in addition to English. Next time we hope it would go to the next level and be accessible for people from all walks of life. They should make an effort to bring the traditions already existing in Galle, to the Literary Festival.”

One apparent drawback of the event was the flippant level of organization. Most enthusiasts were confused as to which events were free, and where they were held. “I saw so many advertisements and came to visit and so far am happy as they offered free tea. But, I have no clue as to which program to go to,” said Cindy from China. The level of coordination between organizers and the media was also unsatisfactory. When inquired the personal opinion about the overall Festival, one anonymous volunteer had ‘no comment,’ on this particular regard. The highlight of the Literary Festival was the awarding ceremony of DSC Prize for South Asian Literature. Anuradha Roy was announced the recipient of the 2016 prize, for her novel Sleeping on Jupiter.

Role of illustration alongside the written word – Alex Stewart
Using a display of a series of art from China, illuminated book of hours from Europe, paintings by Marco Paulo, carvings from Churches and his own paintings of Sri Lanka, and its flying tuk tuks, Alex Stewart emphasized how illustration was a form of expression, sometimes even more powerful than the written words.

Dynasty – Tom Holland
Tom Holland gave a brilliant talk on the rise and fall of house of Caesar founded by Augustus, based on his bestselling book – Dynasty. He couldn’t comprehend the lack of disdain displayed by the younger generation towards history. “That’s such strange to hear. I have not experienced this before, maybe no one tells me about this. I think history is where our roots lie, deep buried. For me, coming to Sri Lanka was a unique experience. A country that is beautiful and yet so strange. That’s what’s going into history is like. The people were similar to us, and at the same time they were all radically different from us. That’s what makes history so fascinating.”

Wave – Sonali Deraniyagala
Sonali shared the traumatic experience she underwent, which became the subject of her memoir, Wave. She and her family were on vacation in Yala, when the 2004 tsunami hit and swept them away. She was the sole survivor, and she had to live with the fact.” I had no voice to tell anything, my response was to shut down. On one hand I wanted to die, on one hand I wanted to kill myself, and on the other hand I was trying not to die,” she said. The therapy she received helped her. It was her therapist who suggested writing down her experience. “Therapy was crucial. Also, writing allowed me to get back into my life. I wrote it for myself. If there is an art of survival, it was my art of survival.”  For her, it was not the awards for her book that matters. “I had a blurred and hazy idea of identity. In reality, you can’t stop thinking about them just because they die. I am not a writer. I became more comfortable with my reality as a result of my writing,” she confided. The discussion was concluded with an exclusive reading, where she read from the last two pages of her book. She received a standing ovation in return.

DSC Prize for South Asian Literature
DSC Prize 2016 award ceremony was held at Hall de Galle on January 16. DSC Prize For South Asian Literature focused on the South Asian region, and has completed five successful years. The whopping US $ 50,000 prize is South Asia’s richest prize for Literature. To qualify, subject matter of the fiction has to be South Asian, whereas the writer need not be of South Asian origin. Fiction written in the original language is considered. In this case, the prize would be equally divided between the writer and the translator.

Anuradha Roy was announced the winner for this year, for her novel, Sleeping On Jupiter, which explores the hypocrisies of the Indian society. Prime Minister, Ranil Wickremesinghe, presented the award to the winner at the ceremony.

The shortlisted novels were: Family Life by Akhil Sharma, Sleeping on Jupiter by Anuradha Roy, Hangwoman by K R Meera (Translated by J Devika), The Book Of Gold Leaves by Mirza Waheed, The Lives Of Others by Neel Mukherjee and She Will Build Him A City by Raj Kamal Jha.

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