Manuscript Collection MS COLL 00191 - Shyam Selvadurai Papers

Identity area

Reference code



Shyam Selvadurai Papers


  • 1965-2013 (Creation)

Level of description

Manuscript Collection

Extent and medium

56 boxes (6.8 metres)

Context area

Name of creator


Biographical history

Shyam Selvadurai was born 12 February 1965 in Colombo, Sri Lanka to a Sinhalese mother and a Tamil father. He attended Royal Junior School and Royal College in Colombo and participated in theatre; he directed his first production, The Wizard of Oz at the age of 13. Ethnic riots, between Tamil and Sinhalese beginning in July 1983, led Selvadurai and his family to immigrate to Canada when he was 19 years old. He attended York University for a bachelor of fine arts in theatre directing and playwriting between 1984 and 1989.
He moved to Montreal in 1990 to focus on writing and published his first story “Nagadvipa Road” in Montreal Serai in 1991. He published “Pigs Can’t Fly” in the Toronto South Asian Review in spring 1992, which resulted in securing an agent, and a plan to expand “Pigs Can’t Fly” into a novel. Funny Boy, a novel presented through six short stories, was published in 1994 by McClelland & Stewart in Canada and Jonathan Cape in the UK. It was shortlisted for the 1994 Giller Prize and was awarded the Smithbooks/Books in Canada First Novel Award. Funny Boy would go on to be translated into seven languages and published in eleven countries. His second novel, Cinnamon Gardens was published in 1998 by McClelland & Stewart, which was shortlisted for the Trillium Award in 1998. His third novel, for young adults, Swimming in the Monsoon Sea was published by Tundra Books in 2005 and was shortlisted for the Governor General’s Literary Award. His most recent work was The Hungry Ghosts which was published by Double Day Canada and Penguin India in April 2013. Selvadurai received an MFA in creative writing from the University of British Columbia in 2010. He taught creative writing workshops at York University between 1998 and 2010, and at the University of Toronto, School of Continuing Studies in 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2009. Shyam Selvadurai lives in Toronto.

Archival history

Immediate source of acquisition or transfer

Gift of Shyam Selvadurai, 2019.

Content and structure area

Scope and content

Collection contains professional and personal papers pertaining to the life and career of Shyam Selvadurai. These papers contain extensive material on the novels of Selvadurai. This includes prolific drafts, most with holograph revisions, proofs and promotional material for all four of his novels. The collection also contains extensive research that was conducted by Selvadurai for Funny Boy and Cinnamon Gardens. Material also relates to two unpublished novels: one tracing the lives of the characters from Swimming in the Monsoon Sea as adults and living in Canada, and the other – The Vanishing Relics, which Selvadurai wrote during the course of his MFA in 2010.

Also included in the collection are drafts and published articles and stories, which appeared in journals, newspapers and magazines, as well as additions to anthologies which were edited by Selvadurai. Records relate to promotion and career of Selvadurai including articles and interviews, author photographs, readings and events. Collection also pertains to the personal life of Selvadurai with correspondence (primarily between 1985 and 2005), photographs and personal items. Other personal material relates to his education in Sri Lanka and Canada and theatre productions directed by Selvadurai as a young adult in Sri Lanka.

Contains Series:
Series 1: Writing and Publications
Series 2: Promotion and Events
Series 3: Personal

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Conditions of access and use area

Conditions governing access

All files are open with the exception of the following:
Series 3: Personal files
Personal correspondence, photographs, and related records are restricted and can only be accessed with permission from Shyam Selvadurai.

Material may be requested in person at the Fisher Library Reference Desk, or in advance using our online stack retrieval request form:

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