In Memoriam: Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam, FRSC
Professor Chelva Kanaganayakam passed away on Saturday, November 22, 2014. That morning, in Quebec City, Chelva was inducted into the Royal Society of Canada in recognition of his extraordinary contribution to Canadian literary studies and culture. He suffered a heart attack later that evening in Montreal. This is difficult news for the Department, and we want to extend our deepest sympathy to his family.
After receiving his B.A. from the University of Peradeniya in 1976, Chelva received his Ph.D. in 1985 from the University of British Columbia, for a thesis on the writings of Zulfikar Ghose supervised by Professor W. H. New. He joined the Department of English at the University of Toronto in 1989 and was appointed Professor in 2002. Since his arrival, Chelva has been a leader in the development of postcolonial theory and South Asian Studies at the University. He served many times as the Director of the Centre for South Asian Studies. He was also an active member of Trinity College, where he was the Coordinator of the Independent Studies Program.
Chelva received many awards over his career, among these the Faculty of Arts and Science Outstanding Teaching Award and his induction in the Royal Society of Canada. He was a superb translator and scholar; the books and essays that he published and the many papers that he delivered will stand as a testimony to the important contributions that he made to postcolonial literature and theory and to furthering our understanding of Tamil literature and culture. Among his books are In Our Translated World: Contemporary Global Tamil Poetry (2013); Counterrealism and Indo-Anglian Fiction (2002); Dark Antonyms and Paradise: The Poetry of Rienzi Crusz (1997); Configurations of Exile: South Asian Writers and Their World (1995); and Structures of Negation: The Writings of Zulfikar Ghose (1993). At the time of his death, Chelva was completing the manuscript “Literary History of South Asian Writing” for Cambridge University Press, and he was continuing his lifetime work of making Tamil writers better known to us all through his translations.
The Department has lost an extraordinary person with the death of Chelva Kanaganayakam. A wonderful teacher and committed scholar, Chelva will be greatly missed by his colleagues, friends, graduate students, and undergraduates. He was a wise and gentle man, who calmly and tirelessly devoted himself to furthering cultural tolerance and understanding. In losing Chelva, Canadian society has lost an important voice for South Asian literature and the Tamil community worldwide.