AustLit logo


Yasmine Gooneratne Yasmine Gooneratne i(A29562 works by) (a.k.a. Malini Yasmine Dias Bandaranaike Gooneratne)
Also writes as: Tilak Gunawardena
Born: Established: 22 Dec 1935 Colombo,
Sri Lanka,
South Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,
; Died: Ceased: 15 Feb 2024
Sri Lanka,
South Asia, South and East Asia, Asia,

Gender: Female
Arrived in Australia: 1972
Heritage: Sri Lankan
The material on this page is available to AustLit subscribers. If you are a subscriber or are from a subscribing organisation, please log in to gain full access. To explore options for subscribing to this unique teaching, research, and publishing resource for Australian culture and storytelling, please contact us or find out more.


A member of the well-known Sri Lankan Bandaranaike family, Yasmine Gooneratne was born in Colombo, Sri Lanka. She obtained a Bachelor of Arts (Hons) degree from the University of Ceylon and a Doctor of Philosophy degree from Cambridge University, both in English Literature. In 1953, she won the Senkadagala Memorial Prize for Original Verse. Her professional activities include university professor, literary critic, editor, biographer, bibliographer, novelist, essayist, short story writer and poet.

She first started publishing fiction in Sri Lanka before she was married. Having such a well-known name she was anxious to have her published stories assessed on their merits rather than on her presumed political affiliations, so to conceal her identity as completely as possible, she chose a male pseudonym, Tilak Gunawardena, for her earliest fiction.

She taught English literature at the University of Ceylon 1959-1972, and on emigrating to Australia in 1972 took up a position in the School of English and Linguistics at Macquarie University, Sydney, which conferred its first higher doctoral degree, Doctor of Letters (DLitt), on her in 1981. She was founding Director of the University's Post-Colonial Literatures and Language Research Centre from 1989-1993. She was awarded an AO (Officer in the General Division) in the 1990 Queen's Birthday Honours List for her distinguished contribution to Sri Lankan and Australian literature. In 1990 she was invited to become the Patron of the Jane Austen Society of Australia and is a Trustee of the Pemberley Foundation, Sri Lanka. She has acted as Vice-President of the Federation Internationale des Langues et Litteratures Modernes and as an Executive Committee Member of the NSW Writers Centre, Sydney. In 1991 she received a Writer's Fellowship from the NSW Ministry for the Arts and worked at Varuna Writer's Centre to complete A Change of Skies, which subsequently won the 1992 Marjorie Barnard Literary Award of Fiction. Since 1995, she has had positions on both the Australia Abroad Council and the Visiting Committee of the Faculty of Creative Arts at the University of Wollongong.

She has contributed literary articles, short stories, poetry and other writings to a wide range of journals and anthologies. Her critical works include studies of Jane Austen, Alexander Pope and Ruth Prawer Jhabvala. She has written two novels, several volumes of poetry, edited a collection of short stories from Sri Lanka and a collection of poems from India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore, and edited the periodical New Ceylon Writing (1970-). She has also written about Sri Lanka and its personalities, including her family history Relative Merits: A Personal Memoir of the Bandaranaike Family of Sri Lanka. Her principal research interests are in eighteenth-century and Romantic literature, in modern English literature of Asia, in postcolonial literature, film and fiction, and in biography.

Gooneratne has read at many forums including at the Harold Park Hotel, Sydney, 1989, 1990 and 1991; the University of Canterbury, Kent, 1990; Wollongong University, NSW, 1990; "Katherine's Place", Perth, 1991; Macquarie University, Sydney, 1990 and 1991; Universities of Michigan, USA and New Brunswick, Canada, 1991, and Edith Cowan University, Perth, 1991. A Change of Skies and The Pleasures of Conquest were shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1991 and 1995 respectively. In 2002 she received the 2002 Raja Rao Award from the Samvad India Foundation, an international prize instituted to honour writers and scholars who have made an outstanding contribution to the literature of the South Asian diaspora.

In December of 1996 she donated her papers to the National Library of Australia as part of the Australian Manuscripts Archive.

Most Referenced Works

Personal Awards

Awards for Works

y separately published work icon The Sweet and Simple Kind Colombo : Perera Hussein Publishing House , 2006 Z1333917 2006 single work novel

'"Loyalty (and the damnable lack of it in his wife) was the thought uppermost in the mind of Sir Andrew Millbanke as he looked down at Lady Alexandra's dead body, spread-eagled on the paved pathway of the Residency."

'And so begins an engrossing and dramatic family drama, set against the backdrop of Ceylon's bumpy evolution into Sri Lanka, as the Wijesinha clan struggle to balance their staunch political ambition against the ignominy of an embarrassing family scandal. And when two young family members, cousins Tsunami and Latha, meet and become firm friends no one can guess that their triumphant friendship will be played out over the passing years against both the best and the worst the newly independent Sri Lanka can offer as these two smart and Westernised young women pursue their own personal freedoms. (Provided by Little, Brown, 2009 publication.)

2008 shortlisted International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
2007 shortlisted Commonwealth Writers Prize Europe and South Asia Best Book
y separately published work icon A Change of Skies Chippendale : Picador , 1991 Z193541 1991 single work novel
1992 winner Society of Women Writers, New South Wales, Awards Marjorie Barnard Literary Award
Last amended 8 May 2024 10:38:11
Other mentions of "" in AustLit: