Beggar's Feast is a novel about a man who lives in defiance of fate. Sam Kandy was born in 1889 to low prospects in a Ceylon village and died one hundred years later as the wealthy headman of the same village, a self-made shipping magnate, and father of sixteen, three times married and twice widowed. In four parts, this enthralling novel tells Sam's story from his boyhood—when his parents, convinced by his horoscope that he would be a blight upon the family, abandon him at the gates of a distant temple—through his dramatic escape from the temple and journey across Ceylon to Australia and Singapore, before his bold return to the Ceylon village he once called home. There he tries to win recognition for his success in the world—at any cost.
A novel about family, pride, and ambition, about what it takes for one man to make something out of nothing, set on a gorgeous, troubled island caught between tradition and modernity, Beggar's Feast establishes Boyagoda as a major voice in international literature.
Boyagoda s winding second novel (after Governor of the Northern Province) tells the story of a Sri Lankan village boy who spends his entire life remaking himself. A few years after his parents give him to a monastery, not long into the 20th century, the boy, 13, renames himself Sam Kandy and flees to the capital city of Colombo, where he begins his shady journey to success. Starting as an apprentice to a hustler, Sam uses his cunning to make a profit, and then boards a ship for Australia. From Colombo to Sydney to Singapore and back, Sam uses a combination of blackmail and sweet talk to make himself an underworld king not respected, but feared. He takes advantage of the desires of colonialists and the desperation of his own countrymen and, in 1930, becomes one of the first native Sri Lankans to own an automobile (something that was, at the time, illegal). By the end of Sam Kandy s century-long life, the only thing he has stayed true to, through multiple names, schemes, wives, and children, is his commitment to leaving the past behind. Told in prose as circuitous as Sam s life, this at-times affected novel reveals just how much can be laid to waste through one man s need to get ahead.