Shyam Selvadurai is both a Sri Lankan and Canadian citizen, living in Toronto. He has a Tamil father and a Sinhalese mother and was born in Colomo. His family has been living in Canada since the infamous 1993 riots against Tamil shopkeepers in Colombo. The novelist won the “Books in Canada First Novel Award” for “Funny Boy”, published 1994.
The setting is Colombo’s wealthy suburb called “Cinnamon Gardens” in the 1920s. The novel is about family tensions in colonial Ceylon’s elites, caused by feminism and gay relationship. The background is political upheaval, strive for independence and labour unrest..
The novel has two parallel threads, the two protagonists are Annalukshmi and her uncle, Balendran. Annalukshmi is a young teacher. She finds herself caught between pressures to marry, even by her sisters, and her desire for an independent life. As an early feminist, she resists the idea of conventional marriage. Balendran’s wedlock and upper-class life is disturbed by the arrival of his former lover in England, the much younger Richard. Their relationship is threatened by an intervention of Balendran’s father, the wealthy patriarch Mudaliar, who also banishes his elder son Arul rebel, who marries a low cast girl, opposing cast rules. The storylines work out the ambiguities and tensions between the Cylonese elite’s inconsistent ideas of self-rule, which is propagated against the British.
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