Aparna Halpé holds a doctorate in English Literature from the University of Toronto and is Professor of English at Centennial College, Toronto. Aparna’s poetry has been published in various journals including Channels, the Journal of the English Writer’s Cooperative, Sri Lanka, and Postcolonial Text. Her scholarly work has been published in South Asian Diaspora (Routledge), Moving Worlds (Leeds) and Canadian Review of Comparative Literature (UAlberta P). Precarious is Aparna’s debut collection of poems.
What are you reading now?
J.K. Rowling’s A Casual Vacancy. I have to say that I am pleasantly surprised by the fact that Rowling can do more than spin off delectable children’s fiction. A Casual Vacancy is bitter naturalism at its best. I haven’t read something this vicious in a while.
Who is your favorite author?
I can’t say that I can pick one. There are many that I return to over and again – Donne, Shakespeare… Michael Ondaatje, Lakdasa Wikkramasinha, Wilson Harris, Dionne Brand, China Miéville… the list could go on. I recently discovered the work of Nuala O’Faolain. She blows me away. I can’t pick one.
What book inspired you to read?
I began reading before memory. My earliest conscious memory of reading is of a book of Greek myths, and since my siblings (who were older than me) were always involved in the Shakespeare Drama Competition, I got my Shakespeare down pretty early too.
What book did you feel you were supposed to like, and didn’t?
Just about everything by Margaret Atwood. I’ve been forced to teach her work on occasion. It’s always a painful experience.
Do you remember the last book you put down without finishing?
The last book I put down without finishing was John Banville’s The Sea. It was a mighty disappointment, specially since Banville is a writer I respect.
If you could require the president to read one book, what would it be?
A. Sivanandan’s When Memory Dies. I hope we never forget how intertwined our myriad histories are, every single one of us.
But sadly, our national narratives seem to be constructed along convenient, monolithic lines now.
What is your most ‘feel good’ read?
Any book that possesses me completely.
What was your favorite childhood read?
I was lucky to have accidentally come by a copy of Susan Cooper’s Silver On The Tree, the final volume in her series The Dark Is Rising. All the books in the series are exceptional.
Who is your favourite character in a book?
Anil, in Ondaatje’s Anil’s Ghost. I understand a woman who crash dances to Tom Waits.
What is your favourite place to read a book in Colombo?
That’s a tough one. There are so many. I’d have to pick the lovely, grand veranda of my maternal grandmother’s home “Avilion.” There were araliya trees in the garden and a Francisia bush right beside the veranda that perfumed those impossible Colombo afternoons.
Sadly, neither the house nor the gardens exist anymore.
How much would you say you spend on books a year?
Oh dear. Far too much. But you see, I love books, strange books, rare books, old books. Just recently, I purchased a copy of Luigi Serafini’s Codex Seraphinianus which is this incredible postmodern neo-medieval (can there be such a thing?) bestiary. It is simply exquisite. But it meant that I had to be happy with rice and dhal for a few weeks. I would readily starve for a good book.