In this remarkable debut novel, a boy’s bittersweet passage to maturity and sexual awakening is set against escalating political tensions in Sri Lanka, during the seven years leading up to the 1983 riots. Arjie Chelvaratnam is a Tamil boy growing up in an extended family in Colombo. It is through his eyes that the story unfolds and we meet a delightful, sometimes eccentric cast of characters. Arjie’s journey from the luminous simplicity of childhood days into the more intricately shaded world of adults – with its secrets, its injustices, and its capacity for violence – is a memorable one, as time and time again the true longings of the human heart are held against the way things are.close this panel
Shyam Selvadurai was born in 1965 in Colombo, Sri Lanka. He came to Canada with his family at the age of nineteen. He has studied creative writing and theatre, and has a B.F.A. from York University.
Funny Boy, his first novel, was published to immediate acclaim in 1994, was a national bestseller, and won the W. H. Smith/Books in Canada First Novel Award and, in the U.S., The Lambda Literary Award, and was named a Notable Book by the American Library Association. Cinnamon Gardens, his second novel, was shortlisted for the Trillium Award. It has been published in the U.S., the U.K., India, and numerous countries in Europe.
Shyam Selvadurai lives in Toronto.close this panel
“Shyam Selvadurai has brought back from his Sri Lankan childhood a glittering and wise novel. Funny Boy keeps repeating with quiet conviction that the human condition can, in spite of everything, be joyful. You are not alone, it says to the reader I understand you. I was there. I remember.”
“He spins a subtle web that holds readers captive.…”
“A powerful and beautifully written novel.…”
–Literary Review (U.K.)
“Lyrical, moving, and deeply perceptive. This isn’t the first coming-of-age story ever written, but I doubt there’s been one quite like it.”