The launch of Ashok Ferrey’s new book, The Ceaseless Chatter of Demons took place amid a huge gathering of people crammed into the courtyard and terraces of the Cricket Club, a building which Ashok himself had designed the previous year. Ashok and his two readers – television personality Savithri Rodrigo (who also hosted the event) and British Council Arts Director Tanya Warnakulasuriya – read four dramatized excerpts.
Savithri began by asking what the book was about. ‘It’s a many-layered book,’ Ashok explained. ‘It is a love story between a black man and a white woman, it has the usual cast of eccentric Sri Lankans (“You may think they are fictional, but I assure you they exist!”) and I like to think it is one of my funniest books. But, underneath all that is this question of good and evil. Does evil exist? And if it didn’t, would we have to invent it? At the end of the book I hope you will ask yourself, who exactly was good in this novel, and who was bad. And your answer will say more about you than it will about the book.’
Savithri then asked Ashok why the book was set in Kandy, and not his usual Colombo.
‘We Sri Lankans may fondly imagine we are living in the 21st century,’ he said smiling, ‘but underneath it all we are heavily feudal. You scratch the skin of any Sri Lankan and you will find a growling medieval animal underneath. And that goes for me too! Kandy, even more than Colombo, epitomizes this very rigid and structured way of life, where everyone has a part to play, and you often have to struggle very hard if you want to break out of character and be yourself. Sadly, for many people this is an impossibility, and they go through life playing the part they were assigned (condemned to?) at birth.’ The evening ended on a high note with Ashok’s hugely-talented daughter Francesca singing her repertoire of jazz numbers.