CELEBRATING SRI LANKAN WRITING IN ART
The Gratiaen Awards 2018
When Sri Lankan born writer Michael Ondaatje won the Man Booker Prize for his novel ‘The English Patient’ in 1992, he returned to the country he loved and admired with a vision for the betterment of support towards Sri Lankan writing in English. He invested the money he had gained from the Booker Prize in the Gratiaen Trust with a mandate to promote and recognize creative writing and translations in English by Sri Lankan authors and advance their international recognition. Ondaatje’s vision has been in effect for 26 years now, with the annual Gratiaen Awards, the Gratiaen Prize for creative writing and the H.A.I. Goonetilleke Prize for the best translation into English from Sinhala or Tamil. Past winners of the Prizes and their works have immensely contributed towards a rich and diverse body of Sri Lankan literary works in English.
The longlist for the Gratiaen Prize 2018 was announced in April, and the winners of both awards were announced on the 9th of June at the much-awaited Awards Ceremony held at BMICH. As usual practice, published and unpublished manuscripts could be submitted for consideration and the longlist was compiled after careful scrutiny of 42 entries. The panel of judges for this year consisted of Gill Caldicott, a scholar of English Literature, who is currently the Director of British Council Sri Lanka and Cultural Attache to the British High Commission; Ramya Chamalie Jirasinghe, poet and writer of fiction and non-fiction; and Andi Schubert, Senior Lecturer of the Department of Language Studies at the Open University of Sri Lanka.
At the ceremony, the judges proudly announced that Arun Welandawe-Prematilleke for ‘The One Who Loves You So’ would take home the Gratiaen Prize for the year 2018. ‘The One Who Loves You So’, written and directed by Arun himself is a play that delineates the relationship between two young homosexual men who encounter each other through a dating app designed for the LGBTQ+ community. Gil Caldicott, delivering the panel’s comments, recognized the universality of the work and the writer’s insightful perspectives stemming from personal experiences. Arun’s ability to manoeuvre form as well as language to create a piece that contributes in a cutting-edge manner to the body of Sri Lankan Writing in English was also praised by the panel of judges. ARTRA’s perspective on the performance were captured in ARTRA Magazine E38 October/November 2018.
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