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G L E A N I N G S:

Literary Pot-pourri

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 Shattered Earth.

* * * * *

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:

O
TO
GET
BACK
CLEAR
PRIMAL
PRECISE
THOUGHTS
INNOCENCE
IMMACULATE
METAPHYSICS
ARISTOTELIAN
METAMORPHOSIS
UNCONTAMINATED
HETEROCHROMATIC
INEXTINGUISHABLE
SUPERJUVENESCENCE
HYPERHOMOMRPHOSIS
ETERNALCONSCIOUSNESS

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 verbiage.

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 book:

"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"

sivakumaranks@yahoo.com

 

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