This is U of T: Randy Boyagoda on his new novel, Original Prin


Original Prin is what I would describe as a kind of cracked
work of autobiography. I can imagine myself in the world of this bike-riding, Sri Lankan Catholic English professor teaching at a failing Catholic college in downtown Toronto, trying to make family, faith and work all kind of come together
and work together. Eight months before he
became a suicide bomber, Prin went to the zoo with his family. So, I think one of the things I’m really curious about as a writer would be what it means to find unexpected sources of real humanity in places where you wouldn’t expect it. So, my first novel was about a genocidal African
warlord who moves to Canada and becomes a convenience store clerk. And I want my reader to kind of engage with
that character type, perhaps even identify with that character, as unexpected as that might be. I think the first thing I wrote for you at the Times which was a review of Charles Frazier’s novel Nightwoods. I think one of the challenges I would have as a reader and a writer when it comes to kind of multicultural Canadian writing is we tend to take Brown existence and make it this amazing,
exotic, wonderful, butterfly thing or ignore it. What I’m trying to do with Original Prin, and I’ve heard from South
Asian readers who really responded to this, I’ve
tried to suggest that race, culture, when it comes to let’s say South Asian life, religion, it’s kind of essential to this book, but it’s also incidental. By that I mean, it’s a
South Asian white family in 21st century Toronto,
that’s not that exotic. People often will ask me, given all the many things that I do with my days and my nights, how do I find time to write? I write, everywhere and
anywhere that I can. I’m always working. I always, you know, I always have notebooks with me that are full of, full of things that I want to remember and work in the stories that I’m telling. I’ve just had a lunch
before this conversation with some faculty and
one of them said to me, ‘When you’re taking notes in meetings, these are for your books, aren’t they? This isn’t about curriculum committee.’ And I say, ‘Guilty as charged’.

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