Guide to the Papers of Yasmine Gooneratne


MS 9094

National Library of Australia View Catalogue Record

Collection Summary

Yasmine Gooneratne
Papers of Yasmine Gooneratne
Date Range
Collection Number
MS 9094
2.73 metres (16.5 boxes, 1 folio box)
Language of Materials
National Library of Australia


Scope and Contents

The papers include correspondence, reviews of Relative merits, drafts of Word, bird, motif: poems, A change of skies and The pleasures of conquest and printed material.

Conditions Governing Access

Please refer to the collection's catalogue record for the access conditions (

Conditions Governing Use

Copying and publishing of unpublished manuscript material is subject to copyright restrictions. For such material, written permission to publish must be obtained from the copyright holder(s). Copying of unpublished material for research purposes is permissible 50 years after the death of the creator of the material.

Preferred Citation

Items from this collection should be cited as '[Title or description of manuscript item], Papers of Yasmine Gooneratne, National Library of Australia, MS 9094, [series and/or file number]'.


Gooneratne donated her papers to the National Library of Australia on 23 December 1996 under the Taxation Incentives for the Arts Scheme.


Gooneratne has compiled a detailed numbered list of her papers. A copy of this list is available for viewing in the Manuscript Reading Room.

The papers have been arranged by the donor and this arrangement has been preserved.

Biographical Note

Yasmine Gooneratne was born in 1935 in Sri Lanka. She is a university professor, literary critic, editor, bibliographer, novelist, essayist and poet. Gooneratne was educated at the Universities of Ceylon and Cambridge. She became a resident in Australia in 1972. She holds a personal chair of English at Macquarie University 1991- and was the foundation Director of the Post-Colonial Literatures and Language Research Centre, 1988-93. She has been a visiting professor or expert specialist at, among places here and overseas, Edith Cowan University, University of Michigan, Ann Abor, and University of the South Pacific.

Gooneratne has published sixteen books. They include works on literary criticism, edited anthologies of Asian poetry and prose, two novels and several volumes of poetry. Her books include her family history Relative merits : a personal memoir of the Bandaranaike family of Sri Lanka (1986). Her first novel, A change of skies (1991) won the 1992 Marjorie Barnard Literary Award for Fiction and was short listed for the 1991 Commonwealth Fiction Prize and her second novel, The pleasures of conquest (1995) was short listed for the 1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize.

In addition Gooneratne has contributed literary articles, poetry and other writings to a wide range of journals and anthologies. Some of her work is published under the male pseudonym Tilak Gunawardena. In 1990 she was invited to become the Patron of the Jane Austen Society of Australia.

She was awarded the AO in 1990 for distinguished service to literature and education. In 1991 she was awarded a Writer's Fellowship by the NSW Ministry for the Arts. This involved residence at Varuna Writers' Centre where she worked on the final draft of A change of skies.

Gooneratne's work has been presented on television and radio and at public readings in Australia, India, Britain, United States, Canada, Singapore and Sri Lanka.

Her achievements are noted in Who's who of Australia 1997, and in The Oxford Companion to Australian Literature.

Item Descriptions

Class MS 9094. Original Consignment

Series 1. Personal correspondence and review articles, 1970-96

This series comprises photocopies or transcriptions of letters and articles expressing personal and public responses to Gooneratne's published works including books of poetry Word, bird, motif (1971), The lizard's cry and other poems (1972), 6000 ft death dive (1981); anthologies edited by Gooneratne and published by Heinemann Educational Books in 1979; a critical work, Silence, exile and cunning : the fiction of Ruth Prawer Jhabvala (1983); her family history Relative merits : a personal memoir of the Bandaranaike family of Sri Lanka (1986) and novels A change of skies (1991) and The pleasures of conquest (1996).

Correspondents include Shelagh Anghie, Marian Abeysuriya, Muriel C. Bradbrook, Ken L. Goodwin, Lakshmie de Silva, Ellen Dissanayake, Patrick Fernando and Judith Rodriguez. Also included are two articles on Gooneratne's poetry, by H. W. Piper and by Siromi Fernando and Ryhana Raheem respectively, together with reviews published in various countries including Australia, Sri Lanka, India, United Kingdom and United States. Also included are two photographic portraits of Gooneratne taken in 1959 and 1991.

Personal correspondence and review articles (File 1) - Box 1

Series 2. Reviews of Relative merits: a personal memoir of the Bandaranaike family of Sri Lanka, 1986-87

Gooneratne's family were one of the ruling families in colonial and post-colonial Sri Lanka. The family included two former Prime Ministers. The family history Relative merits : a personal memoir of the Bandaranaike family of Sri Lanka is based on interviews with family members and on Gooneratne's memories of life in Ceylon. This series contains reviews by Anne Abayasekara (Lanka Woman), Horace Bent (The Bookseller), Alfreda de Silva (Sunday Observer), Khema de Silva (Sun), Lakshmie de Silva (CRNLE Reviews Journal), Gareth Griffiths (Forum), Donald L. Horowitz (The New Republic), Manique Karunaratne (The Island), Nihara Krause (Sri Lankans), Doireann Mac Dermott (University of Barcelona), Bruce Mc Leod (Sunday Guardian), Susan Moore (Quadrant), Elizabeth Nissan (TLS), Anders Sjöbohm (Sydasien) (in Swedish and English), Hugh Tinker (British Book News), Steven R. Weisman (New York Times Book Review) Rajiva Wijesinha (Ceylon Observer), A. J. Wilson (South Asia and Macquarie University News), Dennis Wright (Asiaweek) Alistair Niven (Commonwealth Today) Andrew Peek (Books and Writing) and Meenakshi Mukherjee (Express Magazine). Also articles by Ric Throssell and John F. Riddick and a feature article in Asiaweek on 'Being Asian in Australia'.

Reviews of Relative merits (File 1) - Box 1

Series 3. Interviews, 1983-94

Photocopies of interviews with Gooneratne by Meenakshi Mukherjee Book Review (Mar.-Apr 1983), R.P. Rama SPAN (Apr 1994) and Tina Faulk Canberra Times (29 May 1994).

Interviews (File 1) - Box 1

Series 4. Word, bird, motif: poems, 1970

This series comprises typed and handwritten annotated drafts and work sheets, a copy of the typescript given to the printers in September 1970 and the corrected proofs.

Word, bird, motif: poems (File 1-2) - Box 1

Series 5. The lizard's cry and other poems, 1971-72

This series comprises typed and handwritten annotated drafts and work sheets for The lizard's cry and other poems.

The lizard's cry and other poems (File 1-2) - Box 1

Series 6. A change of skies, 1989-91

Gooneratne's first novel which deals with a Sri Lankan family living in Australia was published by Picador in 1991. This series comprises four successive typed and annotated drafts written between 1989 and 1991. There is one file of notes and clippings including correspondence to Fiona Giles about the manuscript and information about the author's 1991 stay at the Eleanor Dark Foundation Ltd Varuna Writers' Centre. A typescript of a poem Pilgrims' progress written at the centre is included. The series contains the final annotated typescript with suggestions for the book cover design and correspondence with the publishers, Pan Macmillian. This book subsequently won the 1992 Majorie Barnard Literary Award of Fiction.

A change of skies (File 1-14) - Box 2-3

Series 7. The pleasures of conquest, 1993-95

Gooneratne's second novel deals with Euro-Asian relations as Ceylon undergoes the transition from a British colony to an independent Sri Lanka. It was first published by Penguin Books, New Delhi, in 1995. This series contains four successive drafts written between 1993 and 1995. The fourth draft is slightly annotated, the other three are clean typescripts.

The pleasures of conquest (File 1-10) - Box 4-5

Series 8. Published books, 1971-81

This series contains copies of some of Gooneratne's published books including: Word, bird, motif : poems (1971); The lizard's cry and other poems (1972); New Ceylon writing (1973); Stories from Sri Lanka (1979); Poems from India, Sri Lanka, Malaysia & Singapore (1979); Jane Austen : Sense and sensibility : notes (1980) and 6,000 ft death dive (1981).

Published books (File 1-3) - Box 5

Series 9. Published articles, 1960-96

This series contains copies or photocopies of approximately 180 items by Gooneratne on literary topics in a wide range of journals published between 1960 and 1996. These items appeared as contributions to books, chapters, introductions, essays; occasional papers; periodicals that she edited; articles and review articles; reviews of other authors; bibliographies; poetry and fiction published or reprinted in journals and anthologies and newspaper articles. The topics include Jane Austen, Alexander Pope, Ruth Prawer Jhabvala, Asian writers and writing, cross-cultural experiences and literature, the history of Ceylon in the 19th century, writing a family history, English literature, Asian literature, post-colonial Asian literature written in English, a paper on Salman Rushdie's The Satanic verses (1988) and women and literature.

Published articles (File 1-6) - Box 6