Eating One’s Way Through History: Food and Politics in Manuka Wijesinghe’s Monsoons and Potholes
Keywords:Sri Lankan literature, Manuka Wijesinghe, contemporary fiction
AbstractThis paper consists of an analysis of Monsoons and Potholes (2006), the first novel by Sri Lankan playwright Manuka Wijesinghe. Attention is paid to the ways in which 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 Lankan authors, 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 elaborate metaphors of identity through the dominant trope of food-encompassing cooking and the rituals of consumption. In Monsoons and Potholes, food accompanies and illustrates the autobiographical account of a Sri Lankan youngster born in the early 1960s, and revisits the first twenty years in her life together with the socio-political up and downs in her country. While it is a novel which to a great extent draws on metaphors of myth and 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 life of the Sinhala upper-middle classes during the period. These images of food (and the sets of rituals, beliefs and constrictions around it) are exploited by the author with the aim to explore, understand and denounce the historical process which precipitated Sri Lanka, at the beginning of the 1980s, “on the road to nowhere”.
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