Beating the rain and traffic, the few people who made it for an interaction with the winner of DSC prize 2012, Shehan Karunatilaka, were in for quite a surprise as Dr Shashi Tharoor took a dig on the novel which had created quite a buzz in the literary circles of South Asian Literature.
Tharoor was in discussion with the author on the many dimensions of cricket in the book Chinaman: The legend of Pradeep Matthew. The author regretted not spending much time to meditate upon the title.
‘I should have given more thought to the name. Although it simply is a cricket term for a left-arm spin bowler, I had quite some explaining to do when I toured the East Asian countries,’ said Karunatilaka.
Which is why the American edition the book is being called The Legend of Pradeep Matthew. ‘They scraped off Chinaman as the country wanted to steer clear of any racial offence,’ said the author.
In this book, the author had clearly steered away from lofty ideas of change or any social message. He said he wanted to simply reflect the love of this sport in Sri Lanka which has brought it, to the map of the world. The author remembers how often during his studies people had not known Sri Lanka but post 1996 when Sri Lanka had lifted the world cup cricket, people had somwhere created an identity for the country.
Tharoor said that the narrative is quite fresh and the topic is light while encompassing the history of Sri Lanka in documenting cricket.
‘The narration is very modern and fresh and the introducing epithet which says: If a liar tells you he is lying is he telling the truth?’ is even more teasing,’ said Tharoor.
Being an author himself, Tharoor, said that it is rare literature where cricket, a sport which has caught the craze of the Sri Lankan nation, had actually become a part of the country’s history and identity.
It is in this essence that this book forms an important landmark in the South Asian literature. Tharoor also said that he fondly remembers the cricket World Cup finals of 1996 when a dignitary cheered for the Sri Lankan team and also later took up the citizenship of Sri Lanka. Cricket had become the face of the country which is so striken by violence.
The book may not bring in the politics but it brings about the many scenes behind the stadium, the gossips that goes around the place. It is a post-modern literature where the narrator takes the liberty of making the readers gullible and yet it is he who takes the reins of narration.