France Sri Lanka Cultural Exchanges - Suriyakantha

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Le site bilingue consacré à la vie culturelle au Sri Lanka et en France

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Sri Lanka / France












Fascination of the body

Paul Cézanne

In the Light of Gauguin


Jean de La Fontaine

Malraux / Segalen


Pigeon houses in Quercy






Death Penalty

Mental Health



Miniatures of Kangra, India


    Bernard-Henri Lévy
    Reflections on War,
    the Evil and the end of History.

    preceded by "Damned of the war"
    (Réflexions sur la guerre, le mal et la fin de l'histoire
    Précédé de "Les Damnés de la guerre")
    Editions Grasset, 2001.

    In 2001, Bernard-Henri Lévy went to Burundi, Angola, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Columbia. At each step, he buried himself in the conflicts that are going on for more than thirty years in some states.

    In this new book, the author is doing the choice to mix the autobiography and the reporting.


Bernard-Henry Lévy has closely observed five "forgotten wars" in Burundi, Angola, Sudan, Sri Lanka, and Columbia.

In each of these countries, he buried himself in the heart of lasting wars in which nobody knows any more what is at stake and what is their meaning...

    The martyr of a woman, Tissamaharama, Sri Lanka,
    Pic Stephen Champion.


Since his adventures in Bangladesh, thirty years ago, Bernard-Henry Lévy develops some strange relationships with war. Indeed, he loathes it.

But he likes to observe it, to share the life of its protagonists, to be lost in it, to get buried in it...

So, why this "interest"? In the name of what kind of nostalgia? or culpability? In the name of what shady fascination towards the evil and its manifestations?

The " novel of a life " alternates with the analysis of an epoch.

Hermit, Ingiriya,
Pic Stephen Champion.





    Lanka 1986-1992,
    Stephen Champion,

    Edifra, 1993, first edition in English by Garnet Publishing Ltd.

Sri Lanka

Reeditions from Lake House

  • Sketches of Ceylon by Baron Eugene de Ransonnet.
    Vienna, 1867.

"Europeans generally do not sufficiently appreciate the beauty of their darker brothers in the East, though, it cannot be denied, that many among them have very regular and interesting features and, if not, at all events more perfect figures than we can boast of. The Singhalese especially must be called a fine people and their features distinctly show their descent from the Caucasian race.

Plate IV exhibits the portrait of Siniapu, a boy about 14 years old, from Matura on the southern coast, where the Singhalese race is said to be purest.

It is very difficult for strangers to distinguish boys from girls, during their first stay at Ceylon, so striking is the similarity of their features and costumes. The expression of the eyes soft and timid like that of a gazelle, the delicate face and long silky hair, give them a feminine rather than a masculine appearance."

    Plate IV :
    Siniapoo, A Singhalese boy.

Plate XIV :
Singhalese coolies.



    "A group of Singhalese coolies from Matura, employed on the coffee estate of Laymastotte."

Plate XII : Agostina,
a Singhalese low-caste girl.

    "The Singhalese, as I have intimated before, must be called a fine race, but generally speaking the females are not so goodlooking as the men. To the eye of the stranger the majority of the former seem aged. In reality, the period when the females in Ceylon deserve to be ranked in the category of the fair sex, only lasts a very short time. Still there is an exception for this rule, in as much as in the country near Ratnapoora and Pelmadula, inhabited by a multitude of lowcasts and outcasts, many women bear on their countenance the marks of real beauty.

    It is very strange that the highcasts are generally darker than many lowcasts, in spite of the very simple costume of the latter, which leaves the upper part of the body exposed to the scorching influences of the sun.

Some of the low-caste girls between 11 and 14 years are peculiarly pretty and have a light brown complexion. Their shoulders, busts and arms being of an exquisitely delicate form, they frequently resemble those antique bronze statues of Psyche, familiar to all lovers of art. Agostina was a Christian girl 13 years of age, and performed the duties of an ajah in a native house of Pelmadulla."

'Sketches of Ceylon' is available at the Lake House Bookshop , Hyde Park Corner and reasonably priced at Rs. 2,500.

  • Picturesque Ceylon - Kandy and Peradeniya
    by Henry W. Cave. London, Sampson Low, Maston, 1894.

"I am about to describe the loveliest spot of the loveliest island in the world, a task impossible to accomplish by any purely intellectual process. The development of the photographic art and the recent discoveries in reproductive processes have, however, brought it well within the sphere of the possible to convey a correct impression of that exquisite natural beauty, which the word - painting of most accomplished authors, has hitherto failed to describe. It is therefore upon Pictorial art that I chiefly rely to give a realistic conception of the matchless beauty of the Kandyan district of Ceylon".

H. W. Cave

Perhaps no other member of the European community living in Ceylon at the time when the island was under British rule, has contributed so much towards perpetuating the country's natural beauty and re-capturing the splendour of its ancient past, than Henry. C. Cave.

Carol Aloysius (Sunday Observer, February 25th 2001)

    The honble T. B. Panabokka.

'Picturesque Ceylon - Kandy and Peradeniya' is available in a limited edition at the Lake House Bookshop, Hyde Park Corner (Colombo), and is priced at Rs 3500.

  • Souvenirs of Ceylon by Alastair Mackenzie Ferguson.
    London, 'Observer' office, 1868.

"instead of a bare description of the towns and districts through which the traveller may pass....we have digressed into discussions on various topics of interest such as coffee, cocoa-nut and cinnamon culture, Buddhism, demon worship".

A. M. Ferguson

Back on book shelves after a hundred and forty years since its first publication, is one of the finest tributes to Lanka's natural scenic beauty, her interesting and colourful towns and cities, and most importantly the intriguing and fascinating mix of communities that people this island.

'Souvenirs of Ceylon' is available in a limited edition at the Lake House Bookshop, Hyde Park Corner (Colombo), and is priced at Rs 2500.

Carol Aloysius (Sunday Observer, April 29th 2001)

See our special page : "Voyageurs.."

    'Lama Etena', a Sinhalese lady.



Two books by Michael Ondaatje :

  • Le Fantôme d'Anil (Anil's Ghost), translation from English by Michel Lederer, L'Olivier.

      Appeared in the weekly magazine Le Nouvel Observateur, 24.8.2000

      "Ondaatje explores Sri Lanka...exploration of a country and its memory...
      "Anil's Ghost" is really a chef-d'oeuvre and they are so rare! And what a joy to share his admiration, or better his emotion.
      A novel with such intensity and complexity...."

  • Ecrits à la main (Handwriting), Poems, translation from English by Michel Lederer, L'Olivier.

      Two admirable works search the deepest of fears and fantasy, and write the love of the antique Ceylon in two voices - prose and verse - in an oriental painting in which calligraphy and image meet together. The richness of "Handwriting" and "Anil's Ghost" is inexhaustible. Born in Sri Lanka in 1943 and living in Canada since 1962, Michael Ondaatje appears in these two books at the height of his artistic maturity...

      Excerpt translated from "Sri Lanka" by Danièle Pitavy-Souques
      (La Quinzaine Littéraire, 16th to 30th September 2000.

      A woman who journeys to a tryst
      having no jewels,
      darkness in her hair,
      the sky lovely with its stars

      Michael Ondaatje
      Hand Writing, Vintage International
      New York, 2000

    A prestigious French award to Michael Ondaatje :
    Prix Médicis Etranger for "Anil's Ghost".

  • An excellent selection of books on Sri Lanka : Viator Publications