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Coolabah  2011 

Eating One’s Way Through History: Food and Politics in Manuka Wijesinghe’s Monsoons and Potholes

Keywords: Sri Lankan literature , Manuka Wijesinghe , contemporary fiction

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Abstract:

This paper consists of an analysis of Monsoons and Potholes (2006), the firstnovel by Sri Lankan playwright Manuka Wijesinghe. Attention is paid to the ways inwhich the text articulates relations between personal stories, food, history and politics.Food plays a central role in some novels published in the last years by Sri Lankanauthors, as is the case, for instance, with Yasmine Gooneratne’s A Change of Skies(1984) and Mary Ann Mohanraj’s Bodies in Motion (2005). Both these works elaboratemetaphors of identity through the dominant trope of food-encompassing cooking andthe rituals of consumption. In Monsoons and Potholes, food accompanies and illustratesthe autobiographical account of a Sri Lankan youngster born in the early 1960s, andrevisits the first twenty years in her life together with the socio-political up and downsin her country. While it is a novel which to a great extent draws on metaphors of mythand history, scenes of food and eating appear consistently throughout the narration,which contribute in providing a down-to-earth (and highly satirical) version of the lifeof the Sinhala upper-middle classes during the period. These images of food (and thesets of rituals, beliefs and constrictions around it) are exploited by the author with theaim to explore, understand and denounce the historical process which precipitated SriLanka, at the beginning of the 1980s, “on the road to nowhere”.

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