by Sam Perera
Among bookshops that are closing down, are those that are thriving. Amid unattractive displays, narrow aisles and dusty shelves, dedicated readers linger, browse, ferret around and thumb through an ever increasing selection of new publications. This steady stream of quiet, cultured consumers is the coveted audience of writers, publishers and booksellers alike.
So what are people reading, and in multi-lingual Lanka, in what language? Not surprisingly, the demographic is divided proportionally among Sri Lanka’s linguistic groups with the Sinhala readership grabbing the lion’s share. Poets abound and poetry primes – again, not surprisingly as Sinhala is a witty tongue with which the dullest of us laugh at the direst of situations with wry humour. University Dons turned poets – like Liyanage Amarakeerthi or those who have shown the way like Gunadasa Amarasekera display an enviable mastery of the language and their works are much sought after by readers of the esoteric. Edward Mallawaarachchi’s novels are liberally rose-tinted and calculated to please an analogous readership to that of Mills & Boon. Like many writers of this genre, he is not alone and his work competes fiercely with authors like Sujeeva Prasanna Aarachchi or Samindra Ratnayake.