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Godage acknowledges Lankan Thamil Fiction

It is indeed an irony that a Lankan Thamilian has to write about his own community recipients of Awards even when they are given by a Sinhala business entrepreneur. I am referring to last Thursday's function at the Mahaweli Centre in connection with the 11th Godage National Literary Awards ceremony.

It would have been proper and befitting if some Sinhala journalists who could write in English cover the event and even interview the three Lankans who write in Thamil to show that we are all Lankans irrespective of language or racial differences.

I have noticed while some Lankan Thamliians write about Sinhala and English literary scenes in English, never have the English journalists who mostly belong to the Sinhala community interviewed Lankan Thamil writers and artistes. Why this is one sided baffles me. Maybe there are some deep seated reasons for this. Hope things will change soon.

Some of the big sponsors in the mercantile sector that includes some Lankan Thamilians as well will come forward to foster Sinhala theatre, music, literary awards etc.

Never have they sponsored Lankan Thamil cultural activities. One exception might have been Bharatha Natyam and Song recitals in which some exponents have had an influence in winning over the sponsors to make them feel that such events are not exclusively Thamilian, but also executed with Sinhala artistes.

It is this context one welcomes wholeheartedly the realization of Godage Book Emporium to give some recognition to three writers in Thamil. Godage Bros have earlier published a book in English by a Lankan Thamilian short story writer who writes in Thamil and English. His name is Ayathurai Santhan (pronounced Saanthan).The English Panel of the Arts Council awarded him a Sahithya Award.

That was gratifying. Apart from DCRA Goonathilaka who perhaps due to the unavoidability to write something about Saanthan, no others belonging to the Sinhala community noticed him. That is to say what they felt about him and his writing in print.

Rajiva Wijesinha of course had something to say when he edited an anthology of Lankan short story writers. But it was two belonging to the Burgher community wrote about his book in a little more detail. They were Carl Muller and Lynn Ockersz.

This columnist has been writing about and introducing the Lankan (not necessarily Thamilian scene alone) cultural scene for s many decades in English, but never has an English journalist had the courtesy to ask him for an interview. On the contrary, Lakbima and Silumina weekly Sinhala papers had the courtesy to inform the cultural scene in Thamil to its Sinhala readers in the form of an interview with this columnist some time back. The now defunct Mawatha also had a few translations of his writing translated into Sinhala. Prof Tissa Kariyawasam in his long article in a book in Sinhala English title -Highlights of a Century: Literary Achievements of 20th Century Sri Lanka) had the courtesy to include this columnist's name in the title. Incidentally this book was published by S. Godagae Brothers.

So, it is the Lankan journalists writing in English seem to be the only lot who pretend to say that they know nothing about Thamil and Thamilians in the corpus of Lankan literature.

Gunasena Vithana, Prof A V Suraweera, Leel Gunasekera, K.Jayatilake and others from time to time tried to organize some kind of understanding between the writers of the two communities, but the attempts did not materialize.

The State Literary Awards had hitherto been basically bureaucratic in outlook. Most of the officials did not know 'who was who' and the deserving were left behind and the seekers found their places

It is n this context that Mr. S.Godage' realization of acknowledging the presence of a Lankan Thamil Literate should be appreciated.

He is concentrating on awards for fiction only. Poetry, Criticism and Drama are not considered. Nevertheless we should congratulate him and his team for this noble venture of recognizing Lankan Thamil Fiction for the present.

On September 10, 2009 the writers in Thamil are not fiction winners, but contributors to Lankan Thamil Literature including fiction writing. They were Dominc Jeeva (I have written about him several times in this column), A. Iqbal and Kokila Mahendran. They are three of the senior and important writers in Thamil in this country.

Dominc Jeeva many times winner of several awards writes short stories, edits Mallikai and publishes books with writers financing him for the publication. He hails from Yaalpaanam and belongs to a downtrodden community in the North. Self educated he is a Marxist, but accommodates writers from other shades of ideologies.

A. Iqbal originally hailing from the south East is a Moor with Marxist shades writes poetry, short stories essays and criticism. He is married in Beruwela.

Kokila Mahendran also comes from the North knows English. She writes fiction, essays and criticism. She has also won several literary awards. She studied medicine but switched on to teaching and now retired from the Education Service holding high position. Her forte is writing on psychological themes. She also functions as councilor

They deserve this recognition especially by a Sinhala literary entrepreneur.

The highlight of the event was the critical observations of the early Sinhala novels by Prof. K N O Dharmadasa and the fêting of the Life Long achievement award to Dr K Jayatilake.

Godage National Literary Awards for the best in 208 were given under the following category: Novel Short Story, Poetry, and Literary Works by the youth.

Congratulations all round.

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