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'A Fairy Story For The Galle Literary Festival By Popular Demand'
Tamil Guardian 15 January 2012 Print ArticleE-mail ArticleFeedback On Article
Critically acclaimed Sri Lankan born novelist Roma Tearne has released a satirical short story ahead of the Galle Literary Festival, which she, along with Reporters Without Borders, Noam Chomsky and Arundhati Roy amongst others, called to boycott last year.

Extracts from her piece have been reproduced below.
“The festival was in full swing. All the great writers from around the world were present, topping up their tan by the pool. Sorry I mean all the great white writers. The UK-returned natives were keen to stay out of the sun. Listen, you must understand, on this island paradise, the darker you were the harder it was to find a spouse and the more likely you were to be killed. It’s true.”

“The Festival sponsors strutted about and got lots of exposure. The organisers played at blind-man’s bluff. And the tan-toppers drank a lot. I’m telling you, all was as it should be.”

 “One or two people were a bit worried about security.

            ‘Did you hear a Russian girl was raped?’

            ‘No, no,’ SS told them, waggling his head. ‘That didn’t really happen! It was a play put on for the purpose of the Festival. It wasn’t the real thing!’

            ‘What about that Red Cross guy who was killed?’

            ‘That was in the play, too. Remember your Hamlet? The play’s the thing and all that…’

            ‘Oh okay,’ said the foreigners and off they went for a swim thinking, gosh, these people are incredibly friendly. They just smile and smile…. wasn’t there something like that in Hamlet, too?”

SS smiled. He went on smiling for two full minutes. Until a woman approached him. She was a funny colour, neither dark nor white with very long hair and a nasty sort of confidence.

 ‘Have you heard of Angelina Petipa?’ the woman asked.

            ‘No,’ lied SS.

            ‘She lives in the UK. And she’s a painter as well.’

            ‘Never heard of her,’ SS said, coldly.

            ‘She’s a friend of mine,’ the woman told him, bold as brass.

Of course SS knew of her. He wasn’t dumb. Angelina Petipa was a mixed race, half Tamil, half Singhalese bitch who banged on about ridiculous subjects like Injustice and Truth, and The War. According to big-mouth Ms Petipa there had been a few civilians taken away in white vans at some point. Still were according to her. Well, what d’you expect after a war?

‘You should look her up,’ the brassy woman continued. ‘She’s just had an exhibition at the Serpentine. It’s about the situation here.’

Situation, thought SS nastily. There is no situation in paradise. His head was beginning to ache.

              ‘The exhibition was called Stop The Human Abuse in Paradise,’ the woman persisted. 

            ‘I have no idea what you’re talking about,’ SS muttered.
And off he went in search of Sue. 

            ‘These festivals always attract some undesirables,’ he said later that night.”
Read her full piece, entitled “Unimpressive. A Fairy Story For The Galle Literary Festival By Popular Demand.” on her blog here.

Last year, as part of a boycott campaign organised by Reporters Without Borders and backed by Arundhati Roy and Noam Chomsky amongst others, Tearne wrote,
“One of the objectives of the government of Sri Lanka is to staunch criticism in order to give an appearance of normality within the country. The Galle Literary Festival is a perfect opportunity for doing this. It has risen in prominence and become a safe option for writers from abroad who dream of wide tropical beaches against a palm-fringed backdrop of boutique hotels. But these scenes are located far from the terrible mess in the north and north-east of the island. Here, unseen by western eyes, are illiterate Tamil children still living in psychological and physical deprivation.”
Also see our earlier post: Self indulgent hypocrisy (12 Feb 2011)

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