A Conversation with Yasmine Gooneratne (1994)
Gillian Dooley writes:
Yasmine Gooneratne, literary scholar, novelist and poet, was born in Sri Lanka, educated there and at Cambridge, and moved to Sydney in 1972. She taught at Macquarie University for many years and has published more than 20 books and many essays and articles. Sri Lanka has always been a part of Gooneratne’s literary world. As a scholar she has done extensive and impressive research on the cultural and literary history of Ceylon, and her three novels all approach Sri Lanka and Sri Lankans in different ways. Her most Australian novel is her first, A Change of Skies, published by Pan Macmillan Australia in 1991, which concerns the migration of a Sri Lankan academic and his wife to Sydney.
In November 2018 I was lucky enough to be among a group of Australian scholars who visited the historic Viharagala Estate Bungalow in Haputale, in the beautiful south-facing central highlands of Sri Lanka. The bungalow was built in 1876 and is now owned by the Gooneratne family. We held a mini-conference there, and were delighted that Yasmine Gooneratne was present for the occasion and throughout our visit. I had decided I would give a paper on Yasmine’s work and its links with both Australia and with Jane Austen, and in the course of my research I came across this fascinating interview with Dr R.P. Rama of Rajasthan University, Jaipur, published in SPAN: Journal of the South Pacific Association for Commonwealth Literature and Language Studies in 1994 (Volume 38, no. 1). The interview was conducted in Sydney in 1994 and discusses the genesis A Change of Skies in some detail, along with a discussion of the state of postcolonial studies in Australian universities in the 1990s.
Dr Rama has kindly given permission for us to reprint the interview.
R.P. Rama writes: Shortly before my first visit to Australia I had read Yasmine Gooneratne’s A Change of Skies during a stay at Mussorie in June 1992. The present interaction recorded here, however, took place in Sydney. It was a beautiful winter morning and Yasmine Gooneratne generously shared her reflections with me.
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