Yasmine Gooneratne – Biography


Yasmine Gooneratne was born Yasmine Bandaranaike in Sri Lanka (then Ceylon) in 1935, a member of the well-to-do Ceylonese family which included Sirimavo Bandaranaike, the first woman prime minister in the world. She graduated from Bishop’s College, the University of Ceylon and Cambridge University. In 1962, she married the doctor and environmentalist Dr Brendan Gooneratne. They emigrated to Sydney, Australia, where they now live and she teaches literature.

Novelist, poet, and critic Yasmine Gooneratne, a graduate of Bishop’s College, went on to graduate from the University of Ceylon in 1959 and also received a PhD in English Literature from Cambridge University in 1962. Gooneratne became a resident of Australia in 1972. In 1981, she received the first higher doctoral degree of Doctor of Letters at Macquarie University. She now holds a Personal Chair in English Literature at Macquarie University, which is located in New South Wales. From 1989-1993 she was the Foundation Director of her University’s Postcolonial Literatures and Languages Research Center. In 1990, Gooneratne became an Officer of the Order of Australia for distinguished service to literature and education and in that same year she was also invited to become the Patron of the Jane Austen Society of Australia. Gooneratne also had a place on a committee appointed by the Federal Government to review the Australian system of Honors and Awards from 1994-1995. Since 1995, she has had positions on both the Australia Abroad Council and the Visiting Committee of the Faculty of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong. In 1998, she became a member of Asialink. She has been a visiting professor or specialist at many different places around the world including the following: Edith Cowan University (Western Australia), University of Michigan (USA), Jawarharlal Nehru University (India), and the University of the South Pacific (Fiji). More recently she has won the Samvad India Foundation’s 2001 Raja Rao Award, and the 2008 Sahithya Ratna Lifetime Achievement Award.  She sits as a Trustee of the Pemberley International Study Centre, a foundation her husband set up in Sri Lanka, and is a Patron of the Galle Literary Festival. Finally she is the director of The Guardian Angels, which is an editing service geared toward new writers in Sri Lanka and Australia.

Yasmine Gooneratne is married to Dr. Brendan Gooneratne who is a physician, environmentalist, and historian. They married in 1962 and now have two children, a son and a daughter, and currently live in Colombo, Sri Lanka.

Achievements and Awards

Gooneratne has around 20 published books that include critical studies of Jane Austen, Alexander Pope, and contemporary novelist and screen writer Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. She has also written volumes of literary essays as well as poems, short stories, a family memoir, and two novels. In 1991, she was awarded a Writer’s Fellowship at Varuna Writer’s Center where she edited the final draft of one of her novels, A Change of Skies. This novel later won the Marjorie Barnard Literary Award for Fiction in 1992 and was shortlisted for the 1991 Commonwealth Writers Prize. Her second novel, Pleasures of Conquest, was shortlisted for the 1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize. She has also contributed various articles, poetry, short stories, and other writings to many different anthologies and journals. Her work has been presented on television, radio, and at public readings around Australia and many other parts of the world. Her achievements are recorded in Who’s Who of Australia 1997 and in The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature.


1968 English Literature in Ceylon, 1815-1878
1970 Jane Austen
1970 Word, Bird, Motif
1972 The Lizard’s Cry and Other Poems
1976 Alexander Pope
1980 Diverse Inheritance: a Personal Perspective on Commonwealth literature
1981 6000 Ft Death Dive
1983 Silence, Exile and Cunning: the Fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala
1986 Relative Merits: A Personal Memoir of the Bandaranaike Family of Sri Lanka
1986 James D’Alwis, Member of the Legislative Council of Ceylon, 1823-1878
1991 A Change of Skies
1991 Celebrations and Departures. Selected Poems, 1951-91
1996 The Pleasures of Conquest
2002 Masterpiece and Other Stories
2002 Celebrating Sri Lankan Women’s English Writing 1948-2000
2006 The Sweet and Simple Kind

You can read Yasmine Gooneratne’s poetry here