Suvimalee Karunaratna – Biography


Suvimalee Karunaratna was born in Sri Lanka in 1939 and received her early education in Washington, D.C. and in Colombo. While living in Rangoon, where her father was posted as the Sri Lankan ambassador to Burma from 1957-61, she received meditation instructions from the Ven. Mahasi Sayadaw and the Ven. Webu Sayadaw.

Her first volume of short stories was published in 1973, and several of her short stories have appeared in anthologies of modern writing from Sri Lanka as well as in literary journals. She is the author of several titles in the BPS’s Bodhi Leaves series of booklets, including The Healing of the Bull, Prisoners of Karma, and The Walking Meditation.

  • Suvimalee Karunaratna is a journalist, television script writer, radio producer, short story writer and novelist.
  • She was born on April 15, 1939 in Colombo, Sri Lanka.
  • Her early schooling was at Holy Family Convent, Kalutara, and C. M. S. Ladies College, Colombo.
  • From October 1948 to May 1952 she attended Maret School, Washington, D. C, where her father W. D. Gunaratna 0. B. E. was posted on a diplomatic assignment.
  • After returning to Sri Lanka, she continued her secondary education at C. M. S. Ladies College, 1952-1957.
  • In 1957 she accompanied her parents to Burma and Thailand, where her father was posted as Sri Lanka’s Ambassador from 1957 to 1962.
  • In 1964 Suvimalee Karunaratna took to creative writing, and a number of her short stories appeared in English language dailies in Sri Lanka.
  • In 1969 she did free lance journalism for about six months for the Ceylon Observer, The Sun, and Week-End.

In 1972 she joined the English Language Service of the Sri Lanka Broadcasting Corporation and produced feature programs. Among these programs, two were the history of broadcasting in Sri Lanka, and the constitutional evolution of Sri Lanka from a colony to independent status. She also produced programs on national development spotlighting the work of government departments. Some of her programs of topical interest were “Welcome to Sri Lanka” featuring aspects of cultural importance, “Arts Magazine”, and “Literary Quarter”.

  • In 1973 Suvimalee Karunaratna’s Bili Pooja, a collection of short stories, was published by Hansa Publishers, Colombo.
  • In 1976 she married Dr. Nihal Karunaratna, a general practitioner. She has three step-sons.

About Suvimalee Karunaratna’s short stories it has been said that they reveal “the rich and subtly varied patterns” of the daily lives of Sri Lankans. The four short stories that follow reveal some of these patterns.

The story of “The Bourgeoisie” is set in the early 1970s. It points up the cultural gap between the elitist anglicized upper middle class in Sri Lanka and the masses whom Ranjan describes as thwarted by poverty and frustration and society’s stifling indifference. Ranjan subscribes to the then popular concept of “social realism” – that the validity of art or literature depends upon its relevance to the problems of the masses. Ranjan takes an extreme, exaggerated stance because unconsciously he is turning his back on his own upper middle class in order to survive among the new Marxist revolutionary youth beginning to make their presence felt in Sri Lanka in the early 1970s.

“The Forest Reserve” is set in the present. The forest reserve in the story is a typical example of a reserve on which poor people encroach because they depend on it for fuel and forest products like fruits and edible animals. The injustice pointed out in “The Forest Reserve” is that the rules against encroachment are followed strictly as far as the poor are concrned but that a powerful film company was able to obtain permission to invade the forest on a scale that would damage it to a great extent.

In “When the Dam Is Built” the time is the early 1980s. The Kotmale Dam was being built to dam the head-waters of the longest river in Sri Lanka, the Mahaveli River. This particular dam was one in a series being built for the generation of hydro electricity as well as for storing water for irrigation purposes. The story describes the impact of the building of the dam on villagers occupying its immediate area. The theme of the story is the inevitability of modernization and the old order giving way to the new.

“The Festival Stall” points to the modern commercialization of the ancient Suvimalee Karunaratna : Four Short Stories of Sri Lanka 137

Esala Festival. To Nandasiri, the main character, the origin and meaning of the festival does not mean anything. He merely uses the festival as an opportunity to make money. The writer does not blame him for doing this because of his poverty.

Buddhist publications

  • Prisoners of Karma: A Story by Suvimalee Karunaratna (Buddhist Publication Society Bodhi Leaves Publication No. 125; 1991; 29k/9pp.)
  • The Healing of the Bull: A Story by Suvimalee Karunaratna (Buddhist Publication Society Bodhi Leaves Publication No. 140; 1996; 31k/10pp.)

You can read Suvimalee Karunaratna’s short story here