5. The interface of language, literature and politics in Sri Lanka

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During colonial times, the English language occupied a dominant position, but the colonial educational system was not a mass or egalitarian system. The presence of the colonial masters had a suffocating effect on the creative energies of the local inhabitants and literature in English emerges paradoxically from the growth of nationalist currents. In its early phase, this literature can be termed mimicry. The potential insurgency of mimicry is evident in an adoption of an indigenous identity at times. When writers began to feel nationalist currents keenly, their central problem was reconciling their own sensibility, indigenous traditions and realities, on the one hand, and Western literary and other traditions and influences, on the other. Once this clash of cultures phase was over, the poets wrote out of their personal situations. For some writers, the choice or adoption of English was a major problem, while it was not so for others. But both groups had to adapt English to express realities alien to it and convey their own indigenous spirit. We have now moved beyond the ‘Prospero-Caliban syndrome’.


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