30th Gratiaen Prize shortlist announced with launch of Gratiaen Trust Young Writers Club

Saturday, 20 May 2023 00:10 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

From left: John Keells Foundation’s Carmeline Jayasuriya, Gratiaen Trust Chair Prof. Neloufer de Mel, Gratiaen Prize Shortlister Isurinie Mallawaararachchi, Gratiaen Prize Shortlister Shirani Rajapakse, Gratiaen Prize Shortlister Chiranthi Rajapakse and British Council Country Director Orlando Edwards. Not in picture: Gratiaen Prize Shortlister Yudhanjaya Wijeratne


 The Gratiaen Trust in association with the John Keells Foundation partnering with the Trust for the fourth successive year and with the support of the British Council as its event partner, announced the shortlist for the 30th Gratiaen Prize and launch of the Gratiaen Trust Young Writers Club on 17 May. 

This year out of the eight longlisted writers, four have been short-listed for the next stage of the competition: Flowers Teach Me To Let Go by Isurunie Anuradha Mallawaarachchi (poetry), Keeping Time and Other Stories by Chiranthi Rajapakse (short stories), Samsara by Shirani Rajapakse (poetry) and The Wretched and the Damned by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne (novel). 

This year the Gratiaen Prize marks its 30th year and an unbroken record of recognising and promoting Sri Lankan writing in English. This year the jury for the prize is chaired by Romesh Gunesekera, an internationally acclaimed writer who has been shortlisted for the Booker Prize and is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature; Sukanya Wignaraja, a psychotherapist by profession, a former editor at Oxford University Press, New Delhi, and an avid reader of literature; and Kaushalya Perera, a Senior Lecturer in English at the University of Colombo whose research interests span linguistics and literature. The composition of the panel reflects the Gratiaen Prize’s longstanding tradition of representing three perspectives: a creative writer, an informed general reader and an academic.

The H.A.I.G. Goonetileke Prize for Translation, a biannual prize for translation from either Sinhala or Tamil into English is also being awarded. The judging panel for the translation prize includes Prabha Manuratne, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Kelaniya and a well-known film and literary critic who writes both in Sinhala and English, Dr. Ponni Arasu, an activist, historian, theatre practitioner, lawyer and translator who works in Tamil, and Kaushalya Kumarasinghe, a Sri Lankan Sinhala language novelist and translator. The H.A.I.G. Goonetileke Prize for Translation has no shortlist and the winner will be announced at the main Gratiaen Prize event scheduled on 17 June at Westminster House, Colombo, the official residence of the British High Commissioner in Sri Lanka. 

The Gratiaen Trust Chairperson Neloufer de Mel said, “These Prizes in this milestone year are very special to the Trust. They mark 30 years of concerted, voluntary effort to enhance and support English creative writing in Sri Lanka. A year when Shehan Karunatilleke won the Booker Prize 30 years after Michael Ondaatje, marks a time in which Sri Lankan literature in English is increasingly gaining traction on the world literary map. To continue supporting these writers, the Trust has expanded its work with Masterclasses and workshops, and we thank all our sponsors, particularly our principal sponsor John Keells Foundation, for enabling us to hold these events.” 

This partnership falls within John Keells Foundation’s (JKF) focus area of Arts and Culture aimed at nurturing the livelihoods of artists, enhancing skills and opportunities and showcasing Sri Lankan talent towards safeguarding and promoting Sri Lankan arts and culture under its overall vision of “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow”. In addition to JKF, the Trust also gratefully acknowledges the support of the Wijeya Group of newspapers and the Marga Institute, which is its Secretariat.

As its latest initiative, The Trust has introduced the “Gratiaen Young Writers Club” to promote and provide a platform for “next generation” writers to emerge and build a peer group network. This is an exciting new initiative to bring together young people who share a passion for writing. The club seeks to create a community of young writers who can support, help and inspire each other to achieve literary distinction. The Club will provide a platform for writers from diverse backgrounds to meet, collaborate, share their work, receive feedback, and explore writing in various genres and styles of creative writing.  Marking the 30th year of collaboration with the Trust, the British Council, Sri Lanka hosted the shortlist event as it has done from the very beginning of the Gratiaen Prize. The Trust has also embarked on an exciting program in collaboration with the British Council to bring down writers from the UK to conduct literary workshops, a children’s literary event, a masterclass and several other initiatives throughout 2023 extending into early 2024. Held in various parts of the country, this program will facilitate access for different communities to access literary events, discuss and practice creative writing towards building a strong base for English literary creativity in Sri Lanka.