Spicy Fantasies

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Blue The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka, TranquebarA humid climate redolent of spices, sweat on dark skins – Sri Lanka conjures up many images which lend themselves well to erotica. And of course, erotic writing is far older than many forms and while being general attempts to address itself to the particular covering all kinds of imagined encounters – there is a wealth of erotica, both pornographic and otherwise in the Sinhala language ranging from the historic to the contemporary. What separates it from pornography is that it hints indirectly and so attempts a sensuous stirring of the senses through a kind of half revealing.

Ameena Hussein has put together this collection of short stories, the first of their kind from Sri Lanka, in an attempt she says in her introduction, to unveil the ‘spicy fantasies’ of the land to which she belongs and bring fresh voices to the attention of the English reading public. Her introduction is called ‘Literary Isurumuniya Lovers’ in reference to a famous sixth century Buddhist temple carving.

Of course, Sri Lanka is not really different in its lovelorn longings from the rest of South East Asia. The themes include young love, the pursuit of the forbidden, hope seeking to triumph over despair and frustration of all kinds amongst housewives, schoolgirls and office workers. There are two which talk about sex in cinema halls Hussein’s Undercover and Bus Stop- though the focus in both is different, one about a frustrated housewife grappling with the unknown and the other about youngsters groping for love wherever they can find it in the way teenagers with strict homes often do.

The reader will find the expected combinations of gay sexual encounters, both male and female, straight sex, and most of the variations thereof. Not all the stories are about sexual fulfilment – some are about unfulfilled hungers. Shehan Karunatilaka’s Versee is a rather troubling tale of a middle aged man and his unrealised fantasies about a 14 year old Lolita. Also as tends to happen in many anthologies, not all the stories and some of the poems – because there are poems – are of an equal standard. The phraseology teeters on the literal “lay on the wooden floor in the 69 position”, ‘manicured garden’ or even Hussein’s own word ‘sensations’, used to describe responses, which disrupts the enjoyment of the prose. Nor is there an attempt to explore the different similes available the language of sexuality which has been available down the ages – phrases like ‘her sex’ do not really add much.

Of course, people venturing for the first time into erotica do have a habit of being self conscious which might account for much of the stiltedness.

The title evokes the hard brilliance of the Sri Lankan sapphire, the blue of the blue movie and the blue of unhappiness, blues that come from boredom. As an exercise in titillation, the first collection of Sri Lankan erotica in English and the hat trick in Tranquebar’s collection of erotica, after ‘Electric Feather’ and ‘Slither’, it is certainly worth flipping through.

Blue – The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka by Ameena Hussein (Editor)
Published by Tranquebar in India, 2011

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Blue The Tranquebar Book of Erotic Stories from Sri Lanka
by Ameena Hussein

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Written by Anjana Basu