Romesh Gunesekera was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka, in 1954, where he also spent his early childhood. He grew up bilingual speaking English and Singhalese, the official language of Sri Lanka. His family moved from Sri Lanka to the Philippines before settling in London in 1972. Gunesekera studied English Literature and Philosophy at the University of Liverpool. Gunesekera started writing at the age of 14. He published the short story collection ‘Monkfish Moon’ in 1992. His first novel ‘Reef’ was published in 1994 and was nominated for the Booker Prize. ‘Reef’ is a love story set against the background of a threatened´ paradise. The story is told by Triton, who, at the age of eleven, becomes the servant of Sagaldos, a marine biologist obsessed by his scientific work. Triton is a descriptive name – originally borrowed from Greek mythology, where it is the name of Neptune’s son, but at the same time the name of the largest moon of the second-to-last planet in our solar system – it alludes to the relationship between the two main characters and their dreamlike detachment from the world. Sagaldos’s house is a self-contained microcosm whose nature is determined by Triton’s culinary skills, and whose magic garden allows nothing of the ethnic and social conflicts of Sri Lanka to penetrate. But this apparently Elysian state of being cannot last; when political reality catches up with the two men, the reef, which is the object of Sagaldos’s research and the centre of his life, also falls victim to destruction as a marketable resource. Far from home, the now-adult narrator realises that he had relied on a weak, naïve, unworldly man. The distinctive voice of the narrator, innocent and at the same time alert, dissolves into the adult perspective with ease and seemingly causes the concepts of familiarity and estrangement to switch places. This impression is intensified by the use of Singhalese words, which are left unexplained (in the German translation the words are explained in a glossary). The tone is lyrical, towards the end increasingly elegiac, and it becomes apparent that the outside influences that swept into the country too quickly and diversely did not play a wholly innocent role in the end of this world
Gunesekera has since published the novels ‘The Sandglass’ (1998), a reflection on melancholy and decay set against the background of two enemy families, ‘Heaven’s Edge’ (2002) and ‘The Match’ (2006). He also writes poetry, which has been published in various anthologies. His work has been translated into around ten languages and won numerous prizes, among them the BBC Asia Award for Achievement in Writing & Literature. He lives in London.
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