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
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. GBâs 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 paperâs official polemicist and creative writer, and was even
hand-picked for the task of leader writing.
A journalistâs 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 GBâs short stories involve well-established creativity and
goes far beyond Wickramasingheâs style. As GBâs 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
outsiderâs 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 Senanayakeâs life is his
involvement in Childrenâs fiction. He wrote on his own as well
as translated celebrated childrenâs fiction. One famous piece of
work is âMasterman Ready or the Wreck in the Pacificâ by Captain
Frederick Marryat, translated as Ranarala.
Marryathâs 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. GBâs 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.
GBâs masterpieces were born following his blindness. He dictated his
thoughts to his sister, Dheemathi Senanayake.
âI 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.â
(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
Duppathun Nethi Lokaya
Mage sithum pathuma ha jeevithaya
Mama Eda saha ada
Rath andun rupaya
Saahithya Dharshana Sithuwili