From London to Urbino via Sri Lanka
Roma Tearne for Salem-News.com
"It's all in the text" - Jon Snow, Channel-4 News
Road to Urbino by Roma Tearne
(LONDON) - In the packed auditorium of the National Gallery in London people I did not know were taking their seats.
'Can you read your extract in six minutes, d'you think?' asked the organiser of the event.
Looking through the window of the projection room I saw members of my family wandering in.
No use looking for escape routes, then.
Where were all these people coming from? Why had we tweeted so madly, so foolishly? Why had we wanted a full house, anyway?
'Now just to recap on the running order...' continued the organiser.
But where was Jon Snow?
'He's going to Greece,' she told me with alarming confidence.
Not yet, I hoped.
'Relax! Enjoy the evening. It'll be fine.'
'You'll be great,' my editor from Little Brown agreed.
She looked rather too jolly for my liking-as did the others members of the Little Brown crew.
'It's all in the text,' cried Jon Snow coming in breezily, waving a dog-eared copy of my book as any man in transit might. 'So much to talk about. We'll show the film first, get the whole thing going and have the discussion afterwards. Okay? Let's go!'
So we did.
Had he grown taller or had I shrunk?
In the darkness, in the audience were my children who had as yet not seen the film. I wondered how they would feel seeing their immigrant grandfather on the screen, here, in the National Gallery. Unremembered by any of us was the fact that it was the anniversary of his death.
Afterwards, after the last notes of Wagner's opera Walkurie faded into black, Jon said something I had not thought of before.
'Those sunflowers. They look like human heads.'
Heads hanging under a blue sky, frail and vulnerable, waiting to be decapitated. Like the skulls of Rwanda from that other terrible civil war.
We talked about Sri Lanka, its unacknowledged skeletons buried in the deeply dysfunctional tropical paradise.
A place where love has died, its loss, discarded like old bones.
Where nothing is sacred any more.
Where memory is defiled and the teachings of the Lord Buddha long forgotten.
But talking in this way, openly, with such an outstanding British journalist as Jon, was progress in its own way. For until recently the issues of Sri Lanka could only be addressed in whispers. The Sri Lankan's themselves, relatives of victims and journalists alike know the bully boys lurk in the jungle, waiting to pounce. But now the world was listening at last, thanks to decent, courageous people like Jon, Callum Macrae, Frances Harrison and Jonathan Miller and others whose passion for justice continues regardless. So this was progress.
Later, as I signed copies of my book, the beautiful Tamil woman who had spoken so heartbreakingly at a Frontline event a month ago came bounding up to me. Tonight her face was aglow.
'Now's not the time to talk to you,' she said. 'But thank you! And I shall read your book.'
They ask so little, these people who have been hurt so much.
Roma Tearne: Salem-News.com Contributing Writer / Author
Roma Tearne is a Sri Lankan born artist and writer. Her first novel, Mosquito, has been shortlisted for the 2007 Costa Book Awards first Novel prize.
Currently a Fellow at Oxford Brookes University, she has had many exhibitions including "Nel Corpo delle cittá" at the prestigious MLAC ( Museo Laboratorio Arte Contemporanea ) in Rome.
She became the artist in residence at the Ashmolean Museum Oxford in 2002 and while there, worked on "Happenings in a Museum"
Salem-News.com is extremely pleased to work with this esteemed author, and to be able to utilize her approach in communicating stories about war and ethnic strife that cross all boundaries; those things that make the very soul of our earth bleed needlessly.
Roma Tearne's Writing CollectionMosquito (ISBN 0007233655) was published on March 5, 2007 by Harper Collins.
Bone China (ISBN 0007240732), was published in 2008 by the same publisher.
Brixton Beach (ISBN 9780007301560), was published 2009 by HarperPress.
The Swimmer (ISBN 9780007301591), published in 2010, was long-listed for the Orange Prize 2011.
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