G L E A N I N G S:
This week I shall present short briefs on some books I read recently.
Let's take first a fascinating book which also rekindles nostalgia - a
book called Those Were The Days by P. G. Punchihewa.
Some outstanding Public Officers (meaning Government officials of
high ranking) sometimes used to be engaged in creative prose and poetry.
A few names strike because they used the English language to great
effect. Among those I liked the writing of the late Vernon Abeysekera,
Guy Amirthanayagam, the late Donald Abeysinghe, Godfrey Goonathilaka,
Tissa Devendra and a few others.
There were others too who handled the language beautifully: the late
Regi Siriwardena, the late Mervyn de Silva, Lester James Peries, the
late A. J. Gunawardena, Tissa Jayathilaka, Tissa Abeysekera, Susantha
Goonathilaka, Jayantha Dhanapala, Wimal Dissanaike. I would even include
Bandula de Silva and Nalin de Silva (although the latter has in his own
admission has an aversion to the beautiful English language). It was the
style - clear thinking and lucid writing that mattered.
There are other writers particularly the academics in the calibre of
Ashley Halpe, Carlo Fonseka, Yasmine Gooneratne, Lakshmi de Silva, and
even D. C. R. A. Goonathilake whose writing I like to read for their
analysis and clarity of thought. There are a few non-academic writers
like Anne Ransinghe, Jean Arasanayagam, Carl Muller (what is wrong with
him is that he marvelously and deliberately and naughtily turns the
language into a hodgepodge of varied styles which is not to my taste)
who catches your eyes and prompts you to read them.
Again this is my personal and whimsical biases. Coming to the book
under review, the writer P. G. Punchihewa is a retired national and
international public official. I have not read him before until I read
his book under review.
We must know something about the author. From the blurb, we glean:
"Forty years of service in varying senior positions in governmental and
intergovernmental organisations provided Punchihewa an opportunity to
interact with many personalities of different socio-cultural
backgrounds... He has more than five titles to his credit and won the
State Literary Award for the best children's story book in 2002.
His novel Gana Pol Polowa based on his days in Moneragala is the
story of the poverty stricken, landless peasants of Wellassa and
revolves around Kirisanda a chena cultivator. We understand that this
Sinhala work will be available in English soon under the title The
* * * * *
Let's turn our attention to a different kind of book. The title of
the book: A Rainbow Sash Adorns My Dreaming Sky - "from the secret
shelves of the mind... a new collection of poetry and prose." The writer
is Jegatheeswari Nagendran, an underrated poet.
Let's see what the indomitable Carl Muller has to say in his
introduction to the book: "Characteristically enough, she plunges into
different moods with each subject that holds her attention, becoming, so
to say, one with the poem, essay, dramatic work or reverie.
This is appealing and tells of both the "dreaming sky" of her title
as well as the "rainbow sash" she sees and drapes it with. Soul poetry
is not often seen today, and that could only because of the maddening
pace of the modern times"
Jegatheeswari writes from 1979 to date. In this collection there are
61 pieces. Like in the form of a pyramid she has composed "A Prayer for
Our Troubled Times I give this as it is printed:
Some notes on the writer: She is a painter as well. "She was
encouraged to exhibit her oil paintings at the National Art Gallery, by
Harry Pieris and Donald Ramanayake. Two of her oils were taken to the
London Hall of the Royal College of Physicians, and afterwards exhibited
at London's summer Art Exhibition in 2000."
She lost her husband who was a doctor. Her family is cosmopolitan
with mixed ethnicity and religions. The late charismatic editor of the
then Daily Mirror, Reggie Michael encouraged her writing. Her poems were
published in Stockwells' International Anthology in England. Read more
about her poems from the note on the author in the book.
* * * * *
Finally, let's take a juvenile writer. The name of the short fiction
is Pure Evil. The writer: Lishan Perera. As a teenager, naturally he
enjoys writing mystery and crime stories.
This is his third book. This fiction is well written and interesting
but my regret is that as a Lankan writer, he should have based his
stories in Lanka having Lankan characters.
Somehow or the other the story line looks distanced. Most
foreign-based writers like Michael Ondaatje, Rohan Gunasekera, and
sometimes even Shyam Selvadurai do not appeal to me because they are
writing exotic stuff to cater to a biased Western audience that does not
take serious social realistic fiction seriously.
Perhaps young Lishan when he grows up he would see his own country
first and seek material for international market. However, I liked his
restrained language, the hallmark of a good writer who cares for the
significance of words instead of padding with totally irrelevant
Having been a substitute teacher in Cincinnati High schools, I can
visualise the cafeteria scenes which I had witnessed being reported this
young writer in a graphic manner. I enjoyed such chapters in his book.
To be fair by the writer, let me quote a portion of the blurb in this
"Pure Evil" is a fast-moving, action packed thriller full of twists
and turns, winding its way through a maze of intrigue and suspense.
Lishan Perera takes the reader on a roller ride of horror, guaranteed to
keep you flipping pages into the late hours of the night"