Essential Reading When Traveling to Sri Lanka
If you are traveling to Sri Lanka and looking for some inspirational reading on the subject, then you need look no further than Christopher Ondaatje’s excellent Woolf in Ceylon, a multifaceted portrayal of the island known as Ceylon until 1972.
Ondaatje, a Sri-Lankan-born, writer, philanthropist, adventurer and bob-sledding Olympian, decides to leave the comfort of his home in Canada to retrace Leonard’s Woolf years in Ceylon as a British colonial civil servant (1904-1911) – a journey that takes him through Colombo, Jaffna, Kandy and Hambantota – with the works of Woolf as companion and guide.
During the journey, which takes place in 2004 on the 100th anniversary of Woolf’s arrival in Ceylon, Ondaatje comes to terms with the ghosts of his own past as the adventure unfolds.
Sri Lanka is a place of contrasts – it feels sometimes like a stage on which anything can happen – and Ondaatje captures the essence of traveling to an island with a troubled past, and uses the works of Woolf as a jump-off point for his own explorations and boyhood memories of living there on a tea estate.
Travellers today still feel thrilled when arriving on the island – and reading through the pages of Woolf in Ceylon, you can see that those experiences have not changed much in the last century. In fact the words of Woolf when he arrives in Colombo back in 1904, still resonate today:
There was something extraordinarily real and at the same time unreal in the sights sounds and smells – the whole impact of Colombo, the GOH [Grand Oriental Hotel], and Ceylon in those first hours and days; and this curious mix of intense reality and unreality applied to all my seven years on the island.
What’s more, the book is full of illustrations, as well as historic and contemporary photographs that capture the oriental beauty of Ceylon, with its abundant flora and fauna, art and architecture, people and traditions.
If you need a bit of inspiration to ignite your interest for adventure in Sri Lanka, rest assured, this is the book that will have you planning your next holiday to explore the enchantments and beauty of this wonderful country.
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