Journal article Open Access

Postcolonial Memory, Queer Nationality, and Modernity: Nostalgia and Retrospection in Shyam Selvadurai's Funny Boy

Bonifacio, Ayendy

In this paper, I argue that Funny Boy’s postcolonial memory works in two important
ways: First, in the nostalgic mode, the novel’s postcolonial memory is a
way of longing for a fleeting colonial past which haunts the cultural consciousness
of colonial sympathizers in the novel. Second, in the traumatic retrospective
mode, Arjie’s postcolonial memory demonstrates a compelling rendition of cultural
trauma induced by pernicious ethnic and civil conflicts and an overpowering
homophobia. In this sense, postcolonial memory, in Funny Boy, both illustrates
Arjie’s individual coming-of-age story as well as the civil, ethnic, and social conflicts
leading up to one Sri Lanka’s most politically vexed years. Furthermore, Arjie’s
first-person recollection of Tamil-Sinhalese conflicts and Sri Lanka’s state of
warfare intersects with his first love interest, Shehan Soyza, giving voice to queer
expression and desire during times of war and civil unrest. In Funny Boy, the
oppositional force that generates violence and restraint is the irreconcilability of
the past and present, the normative and non-normative, and, ultimately, the modern
and non-modern. In this sense, violence and restraint become byproducts of
modernity both in terms of Arjie’s sexuality and Sri Lankan nationalism.

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