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Romesh Gunesekera: He was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka to a Sinhalese Christian family in 1954. He grew up in Sri Lanka and the Philippines and moved to England in 1971. His first book, Monkfish Moon (1992) ¸ is a collection of short stories reflecting the ethnic and political tensions that have threatened Sri Lanka since independence in 1984. The writer belongs to 2 places, he has a double identity.

He is a famous writer in Great Britain but he is criticized by fellow writers in Sri Lanka because he did not return to his country. They consider it is easy to write and make statements about Sri Lanka from Great Britain, but Gunesekera thinks being an exiled is as strong as being in Sri Lanka.

As a writer, he deals with the concept of “home”. Where is home for that person who leaves his home country? Gunesekera looks back at his country through the vision of an expatriate. Most of his characters have a “refuge existence”, i.e. his characters are always looking back, remembering, having memories of their past home. They live through memories of their past home. In order to ease the pain of being an expatriate, he created for himself a new home in language. Through his writing, he is going to find a new way of feeling at home. A nostalgic attempt to try to come to terms with the loss of his home country. He gives his characters the possibility of returning their home country, at least, through their imagination by creating imaginary homelands.

The word “home” is connected with 2 meanings: a physical place, a house, and it also has a symbolic meaning full of emotions, feelings, traditions, language, culture. In other words, the place you belong to. So Gunesekera creates literary homes to bridge distances through his writing.

This possibility of creating imaginary homelands occurs because of Gunesekera’s double identity. As he left Sri Lanka when he was a boy, he is asked about his mother tongue but English has also become his mother tongue. On the one hand, Gunesekera speaks Sinhalese (in Sri Lanka there are 2 languages: Sinhalese and Tamil. On the other hand, he also speaks English. This language puts him in a place of privilege because it is the language of the colonizer. Thus, English speakers have access to better formal education.

The literature that R Gunesekera produces is considered DIASPORA Literature because he writes about his home country from the position of an expatriate. That is why, he is classified as a diaspora writer.

Diaspora: This word has a Greek root. In agriculture, it means “to scatter”, “to sow the seeds”. This word has also a symbolic meaning: it is related to the idea of dispersion, i.e. being thrown into the world. Though they may be in different places all over the world, all the expatriates and exiled people will always have a connection, which is yearning to go back home and hoping of returning to their mother country.

Historical context of Sri Lanka: Up to 1984 Sri Lanka was a British colony called Ceylon. There were significant diasporic movements during the British period but the greatest diaspora occurred during the period of civil war in Sri Lanka (almost 800.000 people emigrated).

The official language is Sinhalese, spoken by the majority (75% of the population). In the 2nd place, Tamil, spoken by a minority (12% of the population). Sinhalese and Tamil are 2 different ethnic groups that divide Sri Lanka.  In the 3rd place, English, which is the language of the government, commerce and higher education. Other ethnic groups are Indians, Malays and Chinese.

As regards religion, the majority of the Sri Lankan Population are Buddhists (75%). Then, Hindus (12%) and Christians are the minority group.

Different languages and different religions coexist in an island.

Ceylon was established in 1815 as a British colony and gained its independence from 1948. From this year, onwards, a major conflict between the majority and the minority group went on increasing tension as time went by (from 1948 to 2009). There was a tension between people in power and people who were not, the majority and the minority.

The root of this conflict is during the British colony, because England benefited determined groups for their own convenience and necessities. Sometimes the Tamils were benefited and sometimes the Sinhalese. In 1972, the Sinhalese were in charge of government. They passed an act called “Sinhala Only Act” which changed the name of the island from Ceylon to Sri Lanka. Buddhism became the official religion, Sinhalese became the official language. All of this caused resentment among the Tamils. This minority felt culturally and linguistically discriminated. As a consequence, 2 military forces were created to fight for their rights: the Sri Lankan Military force by the Sinhalese, and the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam LTTE by the Tamils. LTTE was the most aggressive force; in fact, it emerged as a terrorist group. They fought for an independent state in the northeast of the territory. They claimed a separate home for themselves with their own language, religion and traditions.

In 2004, peace was restored for a short period of time because a tsunami devastated Sri Lanka, but all the same, war continued. There was a 2nd diasporic wave during this period: Tamils emigrated from Sri Lanka. They wanted to stay behind the civil war but at the same time, they worked very hard to support the Tigers. ¾ o of the Tamil population living in Sri Lanka emigrated to Canada, India and China. They all have one thing in common: the yearning to go back home.

In 2009, the Sinhalese killed the official Tiger’s leader and the conflict continued though they declared peace.

Diasporic movements have 2 different reasons: in the case of the Tamils, they emigrated because of the conflict. But Romesh Gunesekera emigrated because it was his choice, a decision not influenced by an armed conflict.


Ullswater is set before the Civil War in Sri Lanka. It is a story about the conflicts and tension between two brothers with different identities. One of them, Senaka, is an anglophile and the other brother, Victor, is a rebel.

The setting is Ullswater. This is a symbolic place in England because it is the home of the Lake writers. The spectacular landscape of the Lake District has been a huge influence on some Romantic poets of the 18th an 19th century such as William Wordsworth, Samuel Coleridge, Thomas de Quincey and John Ruskin. Ullswater is a relevant area because it served as an inspiration for English writers and also because Seneka is an anglophile interested in the English literature.



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