Fiction is fabricated but not fake | Sunday Observer

Fiction is fabricated but not fake

11 October, 2020

Mayanthi Jayakody is a lecturer at the Open University, movie fan and a bookworm. She studied at Girl’s High School, Kandy and then entered the Open University, Nawala. She is currently following the MA in teaching literature in a second language context at the Open University. She spoke to the Youth Observer about one of her favourite books, reading habits, and readership in society.


Q: If you are to select a book that you enjoyed the most, what would it be?

A: It would be Love in the time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez.

Q: Why do you like it?

A: It’s a postcolonial novel of magical realism where you find magical elements in a realistic context. Though it’s a love story, it is somewhat different, because the protagonist, Florentino Arrisa, has been trying to get together with his lover, Fermina Daza for more than seventy years and finally unite, which is why it’s a magical realistic novel. Then you find similarities between the elements in the book and our own culture. You know Florentino Arrisa, the protagonist of the book sends loving messeges to Fermina Daza through pigeons. It is related to our ancient communication system where birds were utilised as messengers. A Sinhala traditional classical poetry book, Parevi Sandeshaya testifies to this fact.

Q: You seem to like postcolonial fiction?

A: Yes, I like postcolonial literature very much. The common feature about it is that the postcolonial writers discuss their issues in their own way, and Marquez also does the same. Both they and our writers are proud about their cultures. Though the cultures are different among them, the social contexts are not very dissimilar. So, we can identify a unique literature in them.

Q: Do you believe in the love story in Love in the time of Cholera?

A: It is not about the believability of the story. Here, Marquez is able to take readers to an imaginary world where you can escape from reality. This escape from reality is very significant in a novel, because generally a reader is attracted to that quality of fiction. I, for one, definitely read a book or watch a movie to escape from the reality around me and enjoy. I don’t care about how real the story is, but how it has been put together and to what extent could I enjoy it is what matters to me.

Q: Do you think magical realistic novels are higher than realistic novels in terms of literary values?

A: No genre is higher than another in literature. We started to read with realistic novels, and are still reading them. Realistic novels have their own identity while magical realistic novels have their own.

Q: How did you find this book to read?

A: I had a lecture from Prof. Liyanage Amarakirthi for my Master’s degree in which he took many examples from Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s novels. So, I started to search for his books and finally collected his books. But among all of his books, I like the Love in the time of Cholera most. However, I read it in 2016.

Q: How did you get into the world of books?

A: From the time I began to read when I was seven years old, I was very fond of books. The first books that I began to read were the Enid Blyton books. Then I turned to teenage romances like any other young girl in that age group. Thereafter, I read adult romances by Danielle Steel and detective stories by Sydney Sheldon. Of course, I borrowed books from my school library, but more than that I prefer to buy and collect books.

Q: Were you encouraged by your family to read?

A: My parents gave me books, but they themselves didn’t read much, they were more into movies and music. I think my reading habit derives from my mother’s family, because my maternal grandmother, my mother’s sister and brother were avid readers. There were many readers in my mother’s family.

Q: What is your favourite library?

A: To be honest, I didn’t use a library apart from my university library which is the Open University library. It has a superb collection of fiction. As I said earlier, more than borrowing I have been collecting books.

Q: How much time do you spend reading?

A: I read when time permits me. But I always carry a book with me when I go somewhere.

Q: What type of books and authors do you prefer to read?

A: As I said earlier, I would love to read postcolonial literature. Out of the postcolonial writers, I like Gabriel Garcia Marquez the most. And then I like V.S. Naipaul, Orhan Pamuk, Jhumpa Lahiri and Khalid Husseini. Among the English writers I particularly like Charles Dickens and D.H. Lawrence. Of the Indian writers my favourites are Vicas Swaroop who wrote Q & A or Slum Dog Millionaire, and Rohinton Mistry. When I talk about Sri Lankan literature, I love to read a novel namely, The Lament of a Dhoby Woman by Karen Roberts. I once read it and would love to read it many more times. The other author I like is Shyam Selvodurai.

Q: What do you think about the current readership in Sri Lanka?

A: Technology was introduced to our society on a mass scale during the past ten years. People also have access to the internet. And international book fairs such as Big Bad Wolf and the BMICH book fair has also helped to increase readership. In that sense the readership in Sri Lanka has increased now which is a good thing. But reading of hardcopies has become somewhat low, especially because young people are more and more interested in Ebooks and other digital books. As for me, I love to read hardcopies.

Q: Can you read several books at the same time?

A: When you are reading fiction, you are entering somebody’s world. You cannot enter another world while you are in one world. So, I cannot read many novels simultaneously, but I can read a spiritual book which I like, along with fiction.

Q: Can you read while you are travelling?

A: No, I can’t. Even travelling by train, I can’t read. But noise is no bother for me. I can read in any noisy place.

Q: What have you gained from books?

A: By reading fiction you get to know different types of people, life styles and life experiences. And it helps you to become an empathetic and compassionate person.

Q: Some people say fiction is fake and it is just a fabricated world. What is your response?

A: Yes, fiction is made up, but it consists of people’s experiences, their feelings and their life. So, when you dig into those experiences in fiction, you find a connection between those experiences and real life. The characters in fiction are made up of flesh, and with that you experience somewhat similar to a real life experience. So, fiction cannot be a fake, though it is fabricated.