Acts of Faith, Alberta Fabris Grube, Bellagio, Chelva Kanaganayakam, Copenhagen, Days of Despair, Dorakumbura, Graz, Harold Acton, Italy, Kurunegala, Linda Hutcheon, Meenakshi Mukherjee, Old Place, Padua, Richard de Zoysa, Rockerfeller Centre, The Current Crisis in Sri Lanka, The Limits of Love, Tony Judt, Venice
Notwithstanding all this new and exciting work, I went away in the middle of 1993 for a month. Dorakumbura, by now Vice-Chancellor, was not pleased, but I had confidence in the new staff I had recruited and the systems now in place. It was good to give them a chance to work on their own, but of course the principal reason for going away was entirely selfish, namely that I had received an honour that I felt could not be turned down.
This was a residency at the Rockefeller Centre at Bellagio, on the Italian lakes. The Villa Serbelloni, as it is called, provides a month’s board and lodging, in a beautiful setting, to scholars and artists to get on with their work as they please. Initially it was mainly Americans who participated, but gradually other Westerners too were accepted, and in the nineties there was a conscious effort to expand the pool of beneficiaries to include the Third World too. This meant that one could apply to have one’s airfare paid, and also receive a small stipend. This helped with additional costs, such as travel before and after, and the occasional trip down to the village or excursion on the lake.
I was introduced to the programme by an enterprising American academic called Bruce King, to whose book on the Commonwealth Novel in English I had contributed the chapter on Sri Lanka. It turned out that I was in fact the first Sri Lankan to go to Bellagio, though Michael Ondaatje had been there a couple of years earlier and Yasmine Gooneratne was to follow. I was also happy to introduce Jean Arasanayagam to the programme, though I am not sure that anyone else resident in this country has participated since.
I took advantage of the trip also to attend the Conference of the European branch of the Association of Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies. I had been to the triennial international ACLALS Conferences previously, in Singapore and Canterbury and most recently in Jamaica, and by then I was seen as an old hand. So the ebullient Austrian who was organizing the European Branch Conference the next year was able to sponsor my attendance. Continue reading