Writing to Protest and to Reconcile

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Senath Perera


While protest is the main thrust in Shyam Selvadurai’s novel Funny Boy, his project after the Sri Lankan ethnic conflict ended was to bring about understanding among the various communities through his ‘Write to Reconcile’ programme. Funny Boy, a ‘victim-of-society’ novel, demonstrates how individuals and groups are victimised for their ‘unorthodox’ sexual orientation, for attempting to effect inter-communal marriages, for exposing the ill treatment of a minority community by the State, and for refusing to conform to obsolescent educational practices. Arjie, the main protagonist, is the only individual to successfully challenge orthodoxy by having a clandestine same-sex relationship with a classmate and by deliberately distorting the lines he is forced to recite in public on Prize Day thus effectively defeating his headmaster’s mission to maintain Victoria Academy’s colonial heritage. The novel ends on a somber note with the 1983 pogrom against the Tamil community forcing Arjie’s family to emigrate to Canada. The cessation of the war twelve years after Funny Boy was published, however, enables Selvadurai to change course to use creative writing to bring all communities together, rather than to protest against victimisation.


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