Romesh Gunesekera Quotes

  1. Sri Lanka is an island that everyone loves at some level inside themselves. A very special island that travellers, from Sinbad to Marco Polo, dreamed about. A place where the contours of the land itself forms a kind of sinewy poetry.
  2. I was very lucky – it wasn’t a question of being wealthy; my father was just extremely lucky with the couple of jobs he got. So we got a chance to travel when nobody else could travel.
  3. In writing, I try to find the right balance between momentum and infinity, truth and beauty.
  4. I grew up in Colombo but was lucky enough to spend a lot of time in the countryside as well. Although there was considerable turbulence, even in the 1950s, it did not throw a shadow on my consciousness.
  5. With ‘Noontide Toll’, I wanted to cater to a single story but also collectively more than a single story.
  6. Whether we live in Sri Lanka or Malaysia or India, the U.K. or the U.S., we face similar issues of understanding, remembering the past that has made us and seeing the future we want.
  7. I don’t think I knew I would be a writer. I wanted to become a writer, and I tried to write.
  8. I want to keep an inner life alive and, with luck, somebody else’s, too.
  9. I was thinking of writers living in East Europe before the Berlin Wall came down. They wrote fantastic stuff but were dealing with a situation that was almost impossible to deal with, but they found a way.
  10. ‘Commonwealth’ is not a word I ever used growing up in Colombo. There, in the late 1950s, it would have meant little more than New Zealand lamb and Anchor butter at the cold stores.
  11. I don’t think there ever will be a biopic on me! I would much like some of my books to be made into films.
  12. An aircraft cabin is a place that seems to be nowhere, but I find it steeped in the place left behind and the place ahead.
  13. It seems to me that we live in dangerous times all over the world: we have the technology to remember everything but a desire to forget the troubling and to seek the safety of numbness. Fiction can do something about that.
  14. For me, there is urgency in fiction, even though writing is, in itself, an act against the corrosiveness of time.
  15. A novel means a new way of doing a story. If you go back the origins of a novel, ‘Clarissa’ – that’s not a novel; it’s just a bunch of letters. But it isn’t! Because it’s organised in a particular way! A novel is what you make of it.
  16. Every Sri Lankan, and almost every visitor to Sri Lanka, carries a longing for the place in some small form – hiraeth, the Welsh call it – wherever they go and whatever their background. It binds them however much the war and politics might try to divide them.
  17. I probably felt most out of place as a young kid growing up in Sri Lanka. My mental world was somewhere else, partly because of reading and daydreaming.
  18. My parents knew a wider range of people than most, and so we had actors, journalists, politicians, planters, sportsmen and women and business folk all coming in and out of the places we lived in. Although my parents were not wealthy, they lived a legendary and amazingly cosmopolitan life.
  19. Cricket fans all over the world probably have more in common with each other than with their fellow citizens.
  20. The most appealing side-effect of Sri Lankan cricket from where I stand, shuffling words, has been linguistic.
  21. The nationalist movement supported Sinhala by suppressing Tamil; there were competing nationalisms. It was a fundamental mistake to make parallel streams in education – or a calculated political gamble. Politicians were playing with it.
  22. Sri Lankans of every kind, overwhelmingly the poorest, have been bombed by one side or the other for decades.
  23. I believe if a sentence is to retain its strength over time, it needs to be carefully made.
  24. I find anonymous music frees me best. Chinese pop can be perfect. I can’t decipher anything on the CD label; there is nothing I can hang on to.
  25. I never expected to earn money out of writing. In fact, the idea of getting published was too bourgeois. Then, in England, I realised that writing a book was something you could do without it being laughable.
  26. To my mind, forgetting is a risky strategy for living. Memory is essential to us. It is DNA. We need to remember, and we need to imagine. That’s why we have books, writing, fiction.
  27. My first inkling of what the Commonwealth might really mean came only when I escaped the oddly British-tinged Asia I had known and went to live in the Philippines.
  28. We live in a world which is changing very fast. What seems contemporary now will be historical in two years.
  29. Most childhoods are full of anxiety, but that tends to get smoothed over, so you have a sense of nostalgia.
  30. Sri Lanka is a part of my background: it’s not where I live, but it’s what I want to explore. And I find it works very well to explore through fiction.
  31. In the sense that writing is to retrieve the past and stop the passing of time, all writing is about loss. It’s not nostalgia in the sense of yearning to bring back the past, but recognition of the erosion of things as you live.
  32. I must believe that in words we will find what in fury we cannot.
  33. Sure, cricket on a beach on the isle of Jura is different from a Test match in a stadium in Galle, 6000 miles away, despite the sea air.
  34. I’ve met writers who wanted to be writers from the age of six, but I certainly had no feelings like that. It was only in the Philippines when I was about 15 that I started reading books by very contemporary writers of the Beatnik generation.
  35. Imaginative writing, to me, is a way of discovering who we are and what we have to contend with; discovering what is out there and also what is not there. It enables me to think and explore and make something new with language while trying to make sense of our lives.
  36. The old idea that you grow wiser as you get older, and you learn from your elders, is actually completely wrong.
  37. At 16, I started reading trashy stuff, anything slightly naughty and risque.
  38. When I was growing up, I don’t think I knew any other child who had been out of Sri Lanka.
  39. Language is the means by which we negotiate our relationship with time.
  40. As a youngster, I think I said I wanted to be a journalist, but that’s a disguise for being a writer.
  41. My writing has been shaped by the three countries – Sri Lanka, the Philippines and England – I have lived in.
  42. Two of the first plays I saw after I arrived in Britain were ‘King Lear’ in Liverpool, and ‘Antony and Cleopatra’ at Stratford. One was produced with hardly a backdrop and the other with gigantic scene changes. I was impressed by what connected the two: the words and their life beyond the stage.
  43. Who controls the present controls the past. There’s a power structure, if you like, between the present and the past and the future, and that’s what I’m interested in.
  44. Novels are the means by which we can escape the moment we are imprisoned in, but at the same time, the roots of a novel are in the world in which it is written. We write, and we read, to understand the world we live in.
  45. If you are writing something, you automatically create a certain distance. It can be very little. Even within the same city you imaginatively have a certain distance from your subject, and at the same time, you have to have a connection.
  46. Writing is incredibly important to me as a way of handling the world, understanding how it works.
  47. I wrote ‘The Match,’ my cricket novel, between 2002 and 2005. In retrospect, almost an age of innocence in cricket and a time when it was rare to find the game deep in fiction.
  48. Whether it is better to forget and let wounds heal or remember and learn from the past is a crucial question for all of us, wherever we are.
  49. People who read fiction are different from other people because they are people who are interested in an imagined world.
  50. I like inventing things when I write rather than autobiography.
  51. You might want to write ‘War and Peace,’ but that might not be who you are. You might be better off with nursery rhymes.
  52. A passenger on a road journey is in the hands of a driver; a reader embarking on a book is in the hands of a narrator.
  53. To come to England in the 1970s was to return to this strange other-world of half-known history. I found the imperial architecture curiously familiar: the post office, the town hall, the botanic gardens.
  54. In London, I discovered a peculiar building by Holland Park where the globe was shrunk to fit a British perspective, but which had a library with Sri Lankan books I had never seen before.

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