Hasanthika Sirisena, "Kings"


It's December 4. Hasanthika Sirisena, author of The Other One, always pours the milk before the tea.

How would you describe your story?

HASANTHIKA SIRISENA: A nightmare interpretation of D. H. Lawrence’s poem “Elephant,” the only poem he wrote while staying in Ceylon: "Shuffle, shuffle, and his little wicked eye has seen you as he / advances above you."

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

HS: I wrote the story thirteen years ago, and I’d really only just started writing, so my process was still forming. I had read somewhere that Lawrence hated his time in Ceylon (now Sri Lanka). While touring Kandy, his watch stopped—because of the heat—and he threw it in the lake out of frustration. I just loved that image. So I started there and built a story around it—which is true of my process today.

What kind of research went into this story?

HS: I read both D. H. and Frieda Lawrence’s diaries and letters, really because I’ve always loved reading books of letters. I researched for period detail. But this is really a work drawn from my own strange mind—which is why I think I’ve always liked this story and was glad to revisit it.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

HS: For me, the short story can exist as a lyric, a fever dream, an epic that can span continents and, yet its real potency is its brevity. A writer friend of mine suggested I turn this story into a novel and I thought, god, how boring. Reading about D. H. Lawrence sick and terrible in Sri Lanka. But a short story can sustain that.

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?

HS: They can find a long bio at www.hasanthikasirisena.com.

What's the best gift you've ever been given?

HS: The poet Karla Kelsey gave me for my birthday this year a plastic faux art deco jewelry case with a beautiful plastic art deco fish inside and a card that said, “This is you.” It’s nice to be known.

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Michael Hingston