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This report is taken from PN Review 220, Volume 41 Number 2, November - December 2014.

Gamini Salgado Revisited Vidyan Ravinthiran
The Sri Lankan critic Gamini Salgado may well have been this country’s first non-white Professor of English – joining Exeter University in 1977, after studying at Nottingham. He wrote on both Renaissance literature and D.H. Lawrence, a strong influence on the style of his sadly out-of-print memoir, The True Paradise. Constructed posthumously of gathered fragments by Salgado’s widow, Fenella Copplestone, it was published by Carcanet in 1993 – an extract had previously appeared in this magazine – and includes as an appendix his inaugural lecture at Exeter on ‘Shakespeare and Myself’. Here Salgado argues for clear writing in academic criticism, a challenge to postcolonial norms which has all the personal authority one could wish for, and which should be taken seriously. He also defends the practice of learning poems off by heart – a term he prefers to any other, for ‘if we remember what we love, we can also learn to love by the effort of remembering […] in our educational activity we have lost any sense of the connection between memory and love’.

The reminiscences of The True Paradise are unashamedly lyrical. It deserves to be reprinted, and to be widely read, for its historical importance – I’m thinking here of Salgado’s unique academic achievement, and his record of one middle-class boy’s Buddhist-Sinhala upbringing prior to Independence, and the civil war. But it’s also wonderfully written. Here Salgado describes, of the local temple, the reclining statue which occupied ‘the entire back wall and reached, at the shoulders, right up to ...

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