Dismissive Diaries, Desiccated Journeys, and Reductive Fictions

Sri Lanka in the Writings of Donald Friend, Shiva Naipaul, and Julian West

in Volume 10 (2009): Issue 1 (Jun 2009): South Asia and the Americas
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Sri Lanka remains a popular site for international travelers despite its recent political instability. In examining texts based on sojourns spent in Sri Lanka by Donald Friend, Shiva Naipaul, and Julian West, this article argues that, though supposedly more informed about the island than their predecessors, these visitors from the latter half of the twentieth century eschew enlightened approaches in their writing for those that continue to exoticize, demonize, or stereotype the island's people, culture, environment, and politics. That their backgrounds and countries of origin are dissimilar makes little difference in their attitudes. The narrative strategies that they employ, which are often calculated to attract a certain kind of Western reader, irretrievably enervate their works and render futile the hopes expressed by recent postcolonial critics: that contemporary writing based on travel could lead to greater intercultural understanding between travelers and the local inhabitants that they encounter on their journeys.