The joint winners of the Gratiaen Prize 2022 are Chiranthi Rajapakse for her short story collection Keeping Time and Other Stories and Yudhanjaya Wijeratne for his novel The Wretched and The Damned. Chiranthi Rajapakse was shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize 2017 for her short story collection Names and Numbers and is a writer, lawyer and developmental professional, while Yudhanjaya Wijeratne is a science fiction writer, activist and data scientist. The winners were announced at an event held at Westminster House, Colombo, the official residence of the British High Commissioner, on 17 June.

At the same event the H.A.I. Goonetileke Prize for Translation, a Prize awarded biannually, was awarded to Manel Eriyagama for Jewels, a translation of 14 Sinhala language short stories compiled by her and published by Sarasavi.

Shortlisted for the Gratiaen Prize this year were, Flowers Teach Me to Let Go by Isurinie Anuradha Mallawaarachchi, Keeping Time and Other Stories by Chiranthi Rajapakse, Samsara by Shirani Rajapakse, and The Wretched and The Damned by Yudhanjaya Wijeratne.

This year the jury for the prize was chaired by Romesh Gunesekera, an internationally acclaimed, award-winning author and an elected Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. The other jury members were Sukanya Wignaraja, a psychotherapist by profession, a former editor at Oxford University Press, New Delhi, and an avid reader of literature; and Dr Kaushalya Perera, a Senior Lecturer in English at the Dept. of English, University of Colombo whose research interests span linguistics and literature. Commenting on the joint award Romesh Gunesekera stated that it was a unanimous decision which reflected the jury’s desire to reward two markedly contrasting and effective styles of prose writing, showcasing the diversity and vitality of contemporary creative writing in English in Sri Lanka. In their citations of these works at the shortlist, the judges had observed that “Keeping Time was a book of stories that gave us glimpses of contemporary life that stayed with us and grew stronger with every reading”, while “The Wretched and The Damned was a “bold challenge and a book of the times for reflecting the upheavals of Sri Lanka’s immediate past and present which brought a set of fantasy heroes to the Sri Lankan landscape to deal with possible futures and impossible solutions.”

The jury for the H.A.I. Goonetileke Prize for Translation was chaired by Dr Prabha Manuratne, a Senior Lecturer at the Department of English, University of Kelaniya and a well-known film and literary critic who writes both in Sinhala and English. Other jury members were Dr Ponni Arasu, an activist, historian, theatre practitioner, lawyer and translator who works in Tamil, and Kaushalya Kumarasinghe, a Sri Lankan Sinhala language novelist and translator. Commenting on the winning entry, the judges stated that they gave the award to Jewels by Manel Eriyagama because she had taken on the challenge of translating stories that had a wide range of styles, themes and voices, and done justice to them all.

In her remarks at the event, Chair of the Gratiaen Trust Prof. Neloufer de Mel drew from Michael Ondaatje’s novel In the Skin of the Lion to reflect on institution building and the journey of the Trust these past 30 years, including how it has adapted to changes in the literary scene. She thanked the past Chairmen and Trustees for steering the Trust, and  John Keells Foundation, the Primary Sponsor of the Trust for the past 5 years, the British Council that has been with the Trust since its inception and now partners with the Trust in a program which brings UK based writers to Sri Lanka for workshops and guest talks, the Marga institute that provides secretarial services to the Trust and the Wijeya Group of newspapers for media sponsorship. Prof. de Mel further observed that despite the challenging economic environment, this sponsorship has enabled the Trust to expand its activities considerably. This includes the Gratiaen Young Writers Club, open mic events and undergraduate creative writing workshops to mentor young people in creative writing.