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The intellectual who transcended beyond darkness

The best phase of his life was spent experimenting different forms of poetry. He was largely influenced by the free verse form initiated by Walt Whitman.

Darkness brings in a shocking feeling for those who possess the power of sight. It does not scare away the wise and the intelligent. Many outstanding works of art have been authored by individuals who have journeyed beyond darkness. Loss of sight is believed to have blessed ancient Greek poets like Homer and Teiresias with a strange power and wisdom of developing a link with gods.

Celebrated English poet John Milton reflected how his life was spent before he became visually handicapped and how his talents had remained undiscovered within him.

Similarly the bard of Sinhalese literature, G B Senanayake, reflected similar ideas to Milton on penning a few lines on John Milton while composing his autobiographical masterpiece Vinividimi Andura (penetrating into darkness) when blindness struck him in the latter part of his life.

Vinividimi Andura records a painful episode of a blind man. However it demands serious reading to trace the path of a valiant soldier journeying beyond blindness. It simply blessed GB with the ability to oversee life in a philosophical perspective, quite a luxury for those who are endowed with sight.

The early stages of 20th century ranks GB in an indelible covetous place, with his halo ranging as the journalist, polemicist, creative writer and thinker. GB’s amazing intellectual journey is probably rooted in school, Ananda College, when he was awarded a trophy for Sinhala Grammar in grade seven.

Bidding farewell to school life, he stepped into Lake House when Dinamina was under the editorship of Martin Wickramasinghe. GB became the paper’s official polemicist and creative writer, and was even hand-picked for the task of leader writing.

A journalist’s life was a period of discontent. Many wished to dedicate more time on professional writing and the day arrived when Wickramasinghe and Senanayake had to choose their option. They chose to leave Lake House and the only question that remained was will they succeed after dedicating their life to literature.

The decision was a blessing in disguise. Their literary career slammed the pedal to the metal. They shouldered the early stages of Sinhala literature. Wickramasinghe introduced creativity into writing, and Senanayake exceeded his colleague.

Many of GB’s short stories involve well-established creativity and goes far beyond Wickramasinghe’s style. As GB’s autobiographical notes indicate, his mastery on literary work is well attributed to his vast association with literature both oriental and occidental.

Senanayake was disillusioned with common life commitments. He practised Vidarshana meditation - seeing the life as it is from an outsider’s view - in his work. This meditating view led him to touch on aspects like marriage even though he was a bachelor.

He focused on the middle class society, and was an introvert. He was a keen observer of life and literature, though he was not directly involved. His university was the Public Library, and not a single university don could compete with it.

One facet in G B Senanayake’s life is his involvement in Children’s fiction. He wrote on his own as well as translated celebrated children’s fiction. One famous piece of work is ‘Masterman Ready or the Wreck in the Pacific’ by Captain Frederick Marryat, translated as Ranarala.
Marryath’s 216th birth anniversary falls on July 10.

The best phase of his life was spent experimenting different forms of poetry. He was largely influenced by the free verse form initiated by Walt Whitman. Though he was influenced by this form of poetry, he was in no hurry to introduce them as Nidahas Kavya (free verse) or commonly mistaken term Nisades Kavya (non-metric verse).

His poetry, though it did not follow a particular metre, was rhythmic, insightful and inimitable. GB’s simple vocabulary shows his mastery on the use of right words at the right place.

As an outstanding short story writer and novelist he adopted a number of techniques based on Eastern and Western literature. When some modern critics ironically searched for short story features in Jataka stories, GB adopted the Jathaka style in the early stages of his career as a short story writer.

GB’s masterpieces were born following his blindness. He dictated his thoughts to his sister, Dheemathi Senanayake.

“I have been reading a great deal of Sinhala books in my childhood: novels, short stories, religion, medicine, astrology, biography etc. My mother loved listening to religious books being read. I could read any book when I was about 6 or 7. So I started reading the Jathaka book aloud for my mother to listen. I did this almost daily. I continued this habit, and I could complete the whole Jathaka book in time.” (Transcription from audio clip courtesy: www.gbsenanayake.org.)

Thus was the birth of an intellectual and he was one who had the power to penetrate darkness.

Books written by GB Senanayake

Amba kathava
Duppathun Nethi Lokaya
Ekata Eka
Etha Beluma
Ham messa
Keles Sayura
Loku Kumarihamy
Mage sithum pathuma ha jeevithaya
Maha Lobhaya
Mala Puduwa
Mal Kumari
Mama Eda saha ada
Navakatha Kalava
Pali geneema
Rala Binduma
Rana rala
Rath andun rupaya
Saahithya Dharshana Sithuwili
Sahithya Dharmathava
Vinividimi Andura



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