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New Ceylon Writing began in 1969 as an idea generated by a small company of academics

relaxing between lectures and tutorials in the Senior Common Room of the University of Ceylon at Peradeniya, Kandy.

The Arts Faculty of the university, comprising both western and oriental languages, had been moved from Colombo

to the magnificent setting of the hill country, and Dr Merlin Pieris, who taught Latin and Greek,

had been thinking about some poems written in English by his students that had deeply impressed him.


"What a pity it is," said Dr Pieris, that they have no way of publishing their work..."

And there, quite literally, is where the journal began.

The impulse that created it was not entirely altruistic.

There had been, for some time, among university academics teaching the arts a conviction that

the English language itself as a university subject was under siege.

At this time, teaching the 'western arts' at the University of Ceylon, the island's only university,

recently split into two by the shift of the Arts Faculty to Peradeniya, was still carried out in English.

The Departments of English and Western Classics at Peradeniya, though numerically small,

were nationally and internationally respected for the quality of their teaching staff and of their graduates.