Sri Lanka’s poet-writer, Jean Arasanayagam, passes away

Jean Arasanayagam, one of Sri Lanka’s leading contemporary English literary voices, died in Kandy, Sri Lanka, on July 30 evening after a brief illness.

She was 87. She is survived by her husband, Thiagarajah Arasanayagam, also a writer-painter-playwright, and two daughters. Her funeral will take place in Kandy on Friday, August 2.

Born to a Dutch Burgher family on December 2, 1931, Ms. Arasanayagam obtained a M.Litt in Literary Linguistics from the University of Stratchlyde, Glasgow. She was a fellow in the Creative Activities of the International Writing Programme at the University of Iowa in 1990. She was a Visiting Fellow at Exeter University, UK, in the Faculty of Arts. She taught English at various institutions in Sri Lanka.

An author of 50 books, the writer-poet, who married a Jaffna Tamil, often dealt with multiple heritages of her identity. The civil war faced by Sri Lanka was one of her main subjects. Gender, post-colonialism and personal relationships were among her themes. Many of her works had been translated into various languages, including Danish, Swedish, French, and Japanese.

A recipient of several awards and prizes nationally and internationally, Ms. Arasanayagam was given the “Sahityaratna” award of the Sri Lankan government in September 2017 for her lifetime contributions and the Premchand Fellowship of the Sahitya Akademi, India, for 2014.


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