Chekovâs humanistic approach vividly recaptured
after 100 years
A collection of
Translated from original Russian to
Sinhala by Palitha Ganewatta
S. Godage & Bros, Colombo
256 pages, Rs. 375
FICTION: âMy ambition is not to solve problems, but to state
them correctly....â (Anton Chekov)
Anton Chekovâs short stories are not unknown to Sinhala readers. They
have been translated or adapted into Sinhala from English ever since
âSamskrutiâ, a reputed magazine devoted to literary criticism started
in 1953 in Sri Lanka on the basis of âCambridge Critical quarterlyâ
attempted to introduce Chekov to the broader Sinhala reading community
in 1960 by their special issue devoted to Anton Chekov.
Further Chekov became the first non-western writer to impact on the
Sinhala literature through his short stories prescribed for the G.C.E.
(Advanced Level) Sinhala and university courses of studies leading to
Bachelor and Masters, since early 1960s in Sri Lanka.
In this context, Palitha Ganewattaâs contribution to Sinhala
literature through his above translation is unique.
For he is the first Sinhala writer to have translated and published a
collection of Anton Chekovâs short stories from original Russian to
Sinhala. His collection consists of eighteen well-known short stories of
Chekov of which, some have never been translated into Sinhala before.
Palitha Ganewattaâs competency in Russian life and language coupled
with his authentic experience in Sinhala rural and regional life, its
linguistic features, idioms and expressions are well reflected in the
The Sinhala version is presented realistically that the reader does
not feel that it is an alien theme or experience.
This is specifically seen in his translation of Chekovâs âThe lady
with the toy dogâ, which has been previously translated by many famous
writers of Sinhala.
Chekov is an unusual short story writer, whose techniques of
presentation were unparalleled. For instance he did not dead as most
other contemporary European short story writers, who had (1) Situation
(2) Rising actions (3) Climax (4) Falling actions and (5) Conclusion.
For Chekov formal structures inhibited natural flow of human and
social events. However, Chekovâs short stories are not sequential
collection of material events but an inward pattern of portraying human
thought process and its relationship with people and contemporary
Palitha Ganewatta has maintained the original artistic flavours of
Chekovâs prowess by his swift language style that depicts his
proficiency in Russian and Sinhala Languages and social fabrics.
All Chekovâs short stories translated in this volume involves a
central theme, which he develops through his chosen characters and
social situations with precise intuition.
The connection between individuals and events relevant to social
situations are directed towards the theme.
His handling and developing of characters are incomparable. The
European writers did not capture this human and social insight that
Chekovâs stories were so true to life that they did not have a formal
beginning or a surprising end. As the famous English poet Geoffrey
Chaucer, Chekovâs best works of creativity occurred in the latter period
of his life.
It was then that he derived spiritual complexities and socialist
realistic experiences that were visible in his maturity. Palitha
Ganewattaâs translations from original Russian to Sinhala encompasses
these qualities, which were hitherto unknown to the Sinhala reader.
Chekov was critical of the ruthless contemporary middle class in
Russia while dispelling his anger through formidable artistic means.
This is a timely message required in the Sri Lankan context which has
been creatively handled by Palitha Ganewatta. Chekovâs humanistic
approach to life was vividly recaptured in the Sinhala translation,
which makes it a worthy contribution to the wealth of Sinhala
The reviewer is Head of Sinhalese Program National Special
Broadcasting Service Corporation of Australia
New vistas of research on gender injustice
bibliography on violence against women in South Asia
Author: Bhawani Loganathan
Publishers: International Centre for
Ethnic Studies, Colombo
Review: Shyamala Devi KARUNAKHARAN
PROBLEM: âViolence against womenâ, is a very common but overlooked
issue. The term is synonymous with almost every single household in the
South Asian region.
It is a current human rights concern. Women experience physical or
mental abuse throughout their life - in childhood, adolescence,
adulthood or old age.
Besides causing severe health consequences for the affected, violence
against women is a social problem that draws an immediate response from
According to reports in South Asia, one in every two women faces
gender-based violence in her life. While maternal deaths are reported to
be high, it leaves room for the questioning of the standard of health
and other facilities available for women in this region.
This issue disintegrates womenâs fundamental right to live and enjoy
life and is fast becoming a legitimised, accepted, not-so-important norm
in these societies.
Despite the fight against this violence by various womenâs groups,
the interest shown and the support extended by primary groups within the
community has shown little improvement.
Bhawani Loganathanâs latest book âAnnotated Bibliography on Violence
Against Women in South Asiaâ - actions and responses, focuses on what
actions have been taken by the State, NGOs and media to address violence
It also informs what the available legal reforms are and how the
overall result has been researched and presented. The publication has a
foreword from Radhika Coomaraswamy in which she congratulates Bhawani
for the hard work she has put in for the past three years in compiling
According to Bhawani this compilation sheds light on legislation,
policies, programmes, effective remedies provided for victims, with
challenges faced to combat such violence in the region.
Information about South Asia has been gathered from news clippings,
periodicals, reports, training manuals, monographs, brochures,
pamphlets, posters, electronic web sites and audiovisuals.
Reference has been made to initiatives and efforts by womenâs
organisations, social movements, community groups, human rights
activists, law practitioners, national action plans, justice systems,
healthcare sector, educational institutions, workplaces, popular media,
religious bodies, law enforcers and the Armed Forces.
Bhawani was based at the ICES when she was working on the release of
this book. Although she had difficulty in collecting regional
information on Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and
Sri Lanka, she has proved to have conquered to the best of her ability.
The information enclosed enlightens us to gain a regional awareness
on gender injustice. This will be of great use to researchers and
Bhawaniâs other publications were Women in Armed Conflict in 1997,
Violence Against Women in Sri Lanka in 1997 and Gendering
Humanitarianism: Capacity Building for Women in Armed Conflict in 2003.
Bhawaniâs husband, the late Kethesh Loganathan, also maintained an
interest in these issues.
When translating Eliot becomes childâs play...
Sivu Desaka Hinda
Translation of T.S. Eliotâs Four
Translator: Eileen Siriwardena
Wijesooriya Book Centre, 461/A, N.T.
Perera Road, Mulleriyawa
Price Rs. 100
POETRY: Eileen Siriwardena has dared to do the almost
impossible. âFour Quartetsâ is the last important poem Eliot wrote, and
even the majority of his American and British readers have confessed
that it was extremely difficult to make sense of this four part
From âLove Song of Alfred J. Prufrockâ, one of earliest published
poems, the poet challenged the average readerâs imagination,
sensibility, (knowledge) awareness of trends in modern European poetry
and above all belief in Christianity and its spiritual values.
The Sinhala translation of this poem, which is far more complex in
feeling, thought, and language than âPrufrockâ would have presented Mrs.
Siriwardena the unenviable task despite the fact that she had already
translated seven books (presumably from English) into Sinhala.
Translation of poetry at the best of times is a difficult
undertaking, because no writer could possibly claim to be sensitive to
subtle nuances of expression to the same extent in two or more
Even ordinary readers know from experience that even the same
language written 500 years apart, or even a decade apart could be
different, and a translator sensitive to one period may not be equally
sensitive to another, of the same language.
Again, most Sinhala or even English readers would be unaquainted with
French literature of the second half of the 19th century, and to be more
precise, writings of Laforgue, Corbiere, Mallarme and Baudelaire (just
to take a few of the more innovative and influential ones).
Why these poets are important (for a critic or translator of Eliotâs)
is because of the profound and extensive influence they had on Eliot.
No doubt he greatly admired Dante in Italian, or Donne and Gerard
Manley Hopkins in English, but Eliot was closer to French poets I have
The general translator may not be equally close to two or more
literatures, but still present the reading public with assimilable
material and who may show varying degrees of appreciation.
T.S. Eliot, in modern times, is one who demands from the reader a
more complex response and a profounder sensibility than most other
To make the task of the Sinhala reader easier, the translator has
provided a short biographical note, and also referred to work by one
Of course there have been innumerable critics on both sides of the
Atlantic, but our task here is to see whether the Sinhala version is
effective in conveying up to a degree Eliotâs complex personal
exploration and enabling the reader to respond to it as a great work of
The following opening lines of âBurnt Nortonâ are deceptively and
overtly translatable, and the words of the original text could be
translated word for word without bothering about niceties of syntax in
Sinhala, and Eileen Siriwardena has done precisely that giving the
impression that translating Eliot is more childâs play provided one
knows the exact Sinhala word that could replace the English. Questions
of idiom and syntax do not interfere.
âTime past present and time past
Are both perhaps present in time future
And time future contained in time past.
If all time is eternally present
All time is unredeemable.
What might have been is an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
Only in a world of speculation.
What might have been and what has been
Point to one end, which is always presentâ personal approach
Eliotâs preoccupation with âtimeâ is not that of a philosopher. It is
bound up with his own personal approach to the quest for a reality
within time and outside. It is in a way similar way to a mysticâs
sensation, or vision
âWhat might have been an abstraction
Remaining a perpetual possibility
In a world of speculation.â
Eliotâs refusal to conceptualise the notice of âtime â of restated in
âAll time is unredeemableâ.
One can replace English words with those of Sinhala, as Eileen has
done, but one totally misses Eliotâs emotional pre-occupation. A
translation cannot get beyond words and conceptualisation, unless
language is made meaningless (total destruction of logical structure).
It is the total failure of words that makes Eliotâs symbolism
essential for his purpose. It leads him to reminisce within a structure
of symbolism, as much as within a structure of paradoxical statements.
âTrying to use words, and every attempt
Is a wholly new start, and a different kind of failure
Because one has only learnt to get better of words
For the thing one no longer has to say, or the way in which
One is no longer to say it.
And so each venture
Is a new beginning, a raid on the inarticulate
With shabby equipment always deteriorating
In the general mess of imprecision of feeling
Undisciplined squads of emotionâ
Baudelaire in âCorrespondencesâ has another approach:
La Nature est un temple ou de vivants piliers
Lalisse parfois sortir de confuses paroles
Lâhomme y passe a traverse des forets de symboles
Qui lâobservent avec des regards familiers.â
I do not want to tire the reader of this review with anymore extracts
from âFour Quartetsâ, or a casual piece from Baudelaire.
The focus here is on rendering what has been written in one language
which has abandoned all semblance of conventional expression, metaphor,
symbolism, and even syntax, and adopted a stance that is non-verbal or
How do we then effectively translate, or meaningfully convey the
sense of an essentially un-translatable apparently linguistic device,
which we call a language (because words and symbols are used) which has
developed from verbal communication?.
âWe shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And know the place for the first time.â
Literary gems of a police officer
Bombs and Oombs
Author: Bandula Seneviratne
Samayawardhana Printers, Colombo 10
Price: Rs. 200
LITERATURE: I take the privilege in penning a short review on
the book titled âBombs and Oombsâ 11, written by Senior Superintendent
of Police (RTD), Bandula Seneveratna.
The writer was a colleague of mine, having joined the service as Sub
Inspector of Police, a few years after I joined the service in the same
He is the current Editor of the âNews Letterâ, published by the
Retired Senior Police Officersâ Association (RSPOA). Popularly known as
âBANDUâ, he served in almost all parts of the Island.
He performed his duties to the satisfaction of his superiors. He has
an in born talent to reduce his thoughts in writing, not only on
subjects of his chosen profession, but on matters of interest he
perceived as matters of interest to the members of the public at large.
His passion for writing on âThisâ and âThatâ, âAnythingâ and
âEverythingâ Kings and Cabbagesâ was manifested during the salad days of
his career, and at a time when he was fully engaged in the thick of his
responsibilities as a law enforcement officer and Officer in Charge of
Police stations, mostly in the outstations.
His writings were reproduced, quoted and referred to by the late
Amitha Abeyasekara, in his regular humorous popular column which was
published in the âIslandâ newspaper.
His first book under the same title was well received which
encouraged him to embark on the second one which is now available for
In this issue he had dealt with almost as many as subjects of
interest not only to Police officers but also to the members of the
general public too.
He has touched on cricket match fixing and drug trafficking, cinema
artists, slaughter of trees, many subjects of public interest, his own
experience in the police service and about his former superiors and
No particular article could be picked out as the best of the many
which are collectively a presentation of the writerâs best effort. The
articles ranging from personal experience, his observations, and his
opinions are reproduced in the from of anecdotes, not sparing digs at
himself and his colleagues.
He has not loaded the book only with his experience whilst serving as
a police officer but has endeavoured to offer the reading population, a
book containing articles laced with humour, keeping in mind the dictum
âVariety is the spice of lifeâ.
It is commendable that a police officer who was in active service
could indulge in writing articles to the newspapers, writes book and
continues to do so even in retirement.
The perception of a police officer by the average citizen is that he
is all brawn and no brains.
Bandu has disproved this perception by excelling both in police
duties as well as in the literary field.
It is evident that he had not shirked his responsibilities as a law
enforcement officer and at the same time had enjoyed his passion for
He has earned a name as a police officer as well as a writer, which
has not been achieved by majority of Police officers.
The book is recommended for young and old, police officers in service
as well as those in retirement and the general public, for reading in
leisure, as the articles are written in plain and simple English, more
in the style of anecdotes laced with humour, on subject matters which
are of public interest.
The writer is president RSPOA
The story of Gajaba as a novel
Author: Prof. Bandusena Gunasekara
Dayawansa Jayakody Publishers,
Price Rs. 250
Review: Dr. E. M. RATNAPALA
The latest literary work of Prof. Bandusena Gunasekara is a novel named
âHeroic Great King Gajabahu.â The plot of the novel flows on the
background of King Gajabahu and his father Wankanasika Tissa.
Although Mahawamsa chronicled this period very briefly Prof.
Gunasekara has referred other chronicles such as Pujawaliya and
Rajawaliya etc. to collect historical information for his novel.
I think the writer has preferred Sinhalese folklore to fulfil his
literary work. Some historic characters are met in the novel like King
Gajaba and regional leaders in Sri Lanka during the same time.
Some characters and the incidents associated with them are created by
the author. So this fiction is a historical novel like Golden Island by
Denis Clark and Es Deka (Both eyes) by Somapala Ranatunga.
The writer uses colloquial and everyday langauge for the dialogues,
used by the characters. The story flows ahead through these dialogues.
That is the technique of this novel.
Prof. Gunasekara doesnât try to put a traditional language into the
characterâs mouths. I think an experiment has been done by the author
how to use the language in a historical novel. I believe his effort has
successful. So it is easy understanding and easy tasting the story.
During the reign of King Wankanasika Tissa Prince Gajaba commenced a
development project in a certain village which has been called âRadadoraâ.
The people who lived in this village had to clean the clothes of the
The leader of this village had a son who was born at the same time
that Gajaba was born. Prince Gajaba established an industrial zone in
the village âRadadoraâ washing cubes, cosmetics and clothes were
produced in the industrial zone, and they were sent to the market.
The villagers were satisfied with their new life. When Gajaba was
carrying on this revolution he had to face many challenges. The advisers
to the king wanted to avoid Gajaba in involving the project. But it was
A certain civilian who lost a short horned buffalo claimed the
Judicature about his problem, expecting a justice. Having got an
unexpected decision, the man thought to revenge the king.
So, he secretly immigrated to South India and spied to the Cholas
against the king of Anuradhapura. As a result of that Cholas invaded Sri
Lanka, and 12,000 young Sinhalese were taken to their country.
With this incident King Wankanasika Tissa left the throne. So it
became vacant. Prince Gajaba was invited to become King for Thri Sinhala.
He took up his duty. Princess Uttara became royal queen.
King Gajaba happened to know that citizens almost everywhere in the
city are living sadly. Because Chola invaders captured their family
members. Gajaba decided to take them back as early as possible. He
crossed over to South India with his commander-in-chief, Maha Neela and
overawed the Chola king.
They squeezed sand and dripped water in front of the Chola king. They
said that they had not sailed to India. There were no ships to be seen.
The Chola king was afraid of them. They brought back Sinhalese men
who had been captured by Chola invaders with another 12,000 Cholas to
Sri Lanka. The holy ornaments of Goddess Pattini also were brought here
The writer makes King Gajaba to address the nation while he was
making his maiden speech King Gajaba explained to the nation what he had
intended to do. He promised to create a united-peaceful country.
âI may take necessary advice from pandits and intelligensia,â he
said. He wanted to make a foreign office as well as foreign trades. He
pointed out how it was important to make a friendship among the South
Indian countries. He said he would not consider caste, post and power.
Already he had changed the washing peopleâs village into an
industrial zone. The leader of the village has joined the government.
His son is commander-in-chief. The king promised not to keep a harem.
He said he would be going to establish a womenâs development
department in the harem. He had decided to limit the number of ministers
of the state to ten.
âAccording to the Arthashastra of Kautilya small cabinet is caused to
a successful administration,â the King said.
The author conveys important messages to the readers through his
fiction, according to his own political and social experiences. The
responsibility of the literati is showing the correct path to the
nation. Prof. Bandusena Gunasekara has done it through this novel in