Numerous instances in books touch my heart – Nisansala Jayaweera | Sunday Observer

Numerous instances in books touch my heart – Nisansala Jayaweera

30 August, 2020

Nisansala Jayaweera, a graduate of the University of Peradeniya, is a school teacher, aspiring scholar and a bookworm. 

Q: What is the book which tugged at your heartstrings the most?

A: Well, it is not so much one particular book but numerous instances in numerous books that have touched my heart. Afghan-American author Khaled Hosseini’s The Kite Runner for example is a book I will never forget because of the bitter-sweet ending, the love, the forgiveness and compassion. It is one book I wanted to finish reading but at the same time abandon immediately after the tragic twist.

Q: Why do you like it?

A: I like it because it was such a detailed novel. I like lengthy descriptions. I feel warm and happy when I read the minute features of characters and settings. Another reason I like this novel is because the tragic incident happens in the middle of the novel and not at the end.

Q: How did you find the book?

A: I came upon this novel when I first began teaching Edexcel A Level Literature, four years ago at the Stafford Sri Lankan School Doha, Qatar. It is still one of the prescribed prose texts. I remember I bought a copy of it and was so hooked on it that I bought another of Khaled Hosseini’s novels: A Thousand Splendid Suns, immediately afterwards.

Q: Did you use libraries?

A: Yes, I did use libraries, especially in school. Oh! My favourite library is the impressive University of Peradeniya library without a doubt. I love it. I love everything about it. The musty smell, the dusty books, the silence. The sound the pages make. I remember walking into the library with the sole intention of doing research work. In the end ,I came out with a novel in my hand.

Q: What was the time that you read the most?

A: It was during my school days. Roald Dahl’s Danny, the Champion of the World is one book I remember reading seated in the library at Good Shepherd Convent, Kandy. I was not allowed to borrow it because I had not returned those I had already borrowed! I was always drawn to the reference section of books that housed Sri Lankan authors at Peradeniya. I first received my taste of Ashok Ferrey there and simply spent many hours with these Sri Lankan authors mainly because I could relate to what they described. It was a cozy feeling! I like that about books.

Q: Who are your favourite authors? Why do you like them?

A: My favourite authors would be Khaled Hosseini for sure, Jeffrey Archer, Ashok Ferrey and Roald Dahl. I have read more than one book from each of these authors. However, Jasmine by Bharati Mukherjee, A Gathering Light by Jennifer Donnelly, The Swan Thieves by Elizabeth Kostova have convinced me enough to get my hands on more books by these authors too. So, I would like to add them to my list of favourites! I prefer psychological thrillers, mystery and realistic novels. I am not a fan of fantasy.

Q: How do you select a book to read?

A: I read the blurb or abiding by the cliché, ‘don’t judge a book by its cover’ I tell myself that the covers which look the most boring will prove to be fabulously surprising. Sometimes, I read the first line and select a book.

Q:  Do you have a personal library?

A: I live with my parents so I keep my books alongside my father’s collection of books. I feel grand doing so. I am somewhat of a sentimentalist. When I was little, it is my father’s collection that inspired me to collect my own copies.

Even as a child I would arrange and rearrange the books in our small ‘library’; I still arrange them in the order of height and enjoy feeling the pages between my fingers.

Q: What are your reading habits?

A: I enjoy reading while eating. Somehow, the food is tastier and the experience enriching. I remember always reading Asterix , the comic book about the mighty Gaul when I used to have my lunch after school! I also like reading a few pages just before bed but if I get hooked, I read into the early hours of the morning. Not the best of habits though.

Q: How do you feel when you read a touching book?

A: After reading an emotional book like the The Help by Kathryn Stockett, I really begin to look at people differently. The Woman who Walked into Doors by Roddy Doyle is one of the most shocking novels I have read about domestic abuse. However,the sensational feeling you have when the main character finally liberates herself by hammering the head of her abusive and violent husband, with a heavy-bottom pan is fulfilling. It is not because I enjoy violence but I feel happy to think that women have that kind of power.

Q: If you were to be a character in a novel, what would it be?

A: I would like to be Nick Dunne, in Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn. The novel is a psychological thriller where Amy Dunne whose parents are authors of children’s books, tricks her husband and frames him for her supposed murder.

Q: You are a school teacher, how do you encourage youngsters to read?

A: It is not easy to convince youngsters to read. The more we force them, the quicker they begin to hate the very sight of books. What I usually do is, encourage them to read e-books since they are tech-savvy. Another method that works is when I draw examples from fiction, historical fiction and thrillers when I discuss their texts. They become excited and inquisitive enough to want to read the book for themselves.

Q: How do you see the present literary awards in Sri Lanka?

A: About literary awards in Sri Lanka, I will only say that it is encouraging for aspiring and well-seasoned writers. With regard to selection, I don’t think a book should be selected on popular ratings or awards. I strongly feel that our opinion about a book is subjective especially if read for leisure purposes.

Q: Do you like Sinhala literature?

A: Yes. My enthusiasm for Sinhala literature is thanks to my tutor, Mr. Jayasinghe. He created mental screenshots when he described the Guththila Kavya. This was 20 years ago. I feel Sinhala literature has a very limited audience compared to world literature but this space can only be expanded by readers who wish the rest of the world to know the melodious beauty of Sinhala writing.