Sri Lankan critics haven't learnt the art of balanced reviews
Ashok Ferrey Author, physical trainer to Sri Lanka's celebs
1. In between being an author, illustrator and guest lecturer, how does your profession as a physical trainer to the rich and famous fit in?
Not easy. At the moment I have a guy that comes for training at 5.45 in the morning three days a week. But you can’t complain — a personal trainer is almost the same as a personal slave. The whole point of the job is that you have to be available when they are available. But there are perks. For instance, I get to train brides in the months leading up to their wedding. On the big day, when you see them floating up the aisle looking like a million dollars, you think to yourself: that’s my body there; I made that! It’s a bigger high than finishing a novel.
2. As a respected and celebrated Sri Lankan writer, what new writing is emerging from the island nation? Do you see newer emergent genres?
There is not as much new writing emerging from Sri Lanka, as I should like. Having spent a lot of time in India this year I realise how far ahead Indian writers are, in terms of experimentation with different genres and the sheer professionalism of the finished product. But you can’t blame us too much: you have here a much better infrastructure of publishers, publicists, translators and editors to knock the raw material into shape. Then again, Sri Lankan critics haven’t yet learnt the gentle art of the balanced review: you either get a complete hatchet job or else two pages of slavish devotion. Neither one does a struggling writer any favours. And you become mortally scared of trying anything new!
3. Serendipity is your first novel — set when the civil war began; how did you approach it without getting into biographical mode? Or does the book draw from your life too?
This is the only one of my books that isn’t in any way autobiographical. However, it was written at a time when I was feeling particularly hysterical (about the senseless killings on both sides, in a war which I felt at the time simply could not be won). Serendipity is the funniest of my books — but you can sense the hysteria beneath the humour. So you don’t get an autobiography; but you do get a good sense of my state of mind at the time.
— Fiona Fernandez