W. A. Silva: Architect of the Sinhala novel
Wellawattarachchige Abraham Silva, the famous and outstanding Sinhala
novelist was born on 16th January, 1890 in Pamankade, Wellawatte and was
the eldest in a family of four children. He received his early education
at St. Paul's, Milagiriya. It was the only formal education his parents
who were not so rich could afford him.
W. A. Silva was studious in school and liked by his teachers. The
family circumstances intervening did not permit him to proceed with his
school career further. As such he found employment at the age of 16 as a
junior clerk in Carsan & Company, then a well-reputed European
mercantile firm in Colombo.
Daily after work, he attended the Dharmasalawa, Bambalapitiya now
known as Vajiraramaya and studied Sinhala and Sanskrit at the feet of
the great literary luminary Venerable Palane Vajiragnana Thera of
Weligama. Being not satisfied with the little education he received in
school, he devoted all his leisure hours in reading as he felt he could
The youth, W. A. Silva wrote his first Sinhala novel, 'Siriyalatha'
at the age of 16. The literary prowess of this young authors' writing
was applauded by most of the contemporary scholars. His second novel 'Lakshmi'
was published in 1922. He wrote it in a masterly style and it was a
clear proof for his rich Sanskrit vocabulary.
W.A's literary craftsmanship came to light in 1919 when he started
editing the fortnightly journal 'Sirisara Sangara'. This was a journal
exclusively meant for contributions from eminent literary personalities
of the day.
'Lakshmi' was followed with a series of other novels such as 'Hingana
Kolla' (The beggar boy), 'Pasal Guruwari' (The School Mistress), 'Deiyanne
Rate' (The land of gods) 'Sunethra' nohoth Avicharasamaya' (Sunethra or
the Reign of Terror), 'Daivayogaya' (The intervention of Destiny), 'Vijayaba
Kollaya' (The Assassination of Vijayabahu), 'Kelehanda' (The Wild Moon),
'Radala Piliruwa' (The puppet of fendal) etc. W. A. was also the author
of several short stories, detectives, plays and books on various other
His creation 'Radala Piliruwa' characterised a wealthy business
magnate in the capital in the mid thirtees who ran through all his money
doing elections to enter the country's legislature and getting defeated
all the times.
The 'Kela Handa' was the first Sinhala novel that came on the silver
screen. The second was the exotic and fine movie, 'Handapana' (The
Moonlight) directed by the talented, Herbert M. Seneviratne based on W.
A. Silva's sentimental novel 'Handapana'.
This well-known literary giant not only excelled as a novelist and
short story writer but also established a reputation as a gifted
journalist. He edited two weekly newspapers 'Sirikatha' and 'Lanka
Samaya'. 'Nuwana' and 'Thilaka' were two fortnightly literary magazines
edited by him.
Silva who was also a fluent speaker in English talked on Western and
Eastern classics with equal distinction. He had a fine flow of oratory,
a great deal of which was very amusing and interesting. W.A's
personality was dynamic and magnetic. He was very outspoken and gentle,
and was a man of high and steadfast ideals.
W.A's last literary work was a translation into Sinhala of 'Valmiki
Ramayanaya' direct from its original Sanskrit. Notwithstanding his other
onerous and multi-farious duties this work was undertaken by him at the
request of his three best friends Cumaratunga Munidasa, the eminent
scholar and grammarian; Hemapala Munidasa, the forceful Sinhala writer
and J. C. Kannangara the famous Ayurvedic physician and oriental