Daily News Online

Wednesday, 26 May 2010



Hunter of desires

Simon Navagattegama was probably one of the greatest writers of the Sinhala language. He has been considered as a writer who used most sophisticated literary traditions in his writings. No one will go against the idea that he wrote something innovative, but very few will be able to describe that innovativeness in detail.

Navagattegama's works are not easy to analyse in a traditional literary framework. Many Sri Lankan critics show a fondness in comparing Nawagattegama with Czech (Bohemian) fiction writer Franc Kafka. Knowing about Kafka in depth may pave the way to understand who is actually Simon Navagattegama is. This statement does not imply that Navagattegama strictly followed Kafka in his writings. They are same in one point: the point of difference among the fellow writers.

Kafka is ranked among the most important writers of the twentieth century for works that express modern humanity's loss of personal and collective order. His writing has inspired the term "Kafkaesque," which has come to describe situations of psychological, social, political, and metaphysical instability and confusion that defy logical explanation and which typify Kafka's conception of humanity's absurd relationship with the universe.

Simon Navagattegama

The word 'absurd' is often used in literarily criticising Navagattegama's works. He has been capable of creating the most attractive absurdity in terms of the concept of 'village'. Kafka is renowned to his extreme nature in absurdity, but in the case of Navagattegama, the situation is quite different.

He takes absurdity in quite flexible terms and uses accordingly with his intentions. For example, he sets his 'Sanasaranyaye Dadayakkaraya' and 'Sagara Jalaya Madi Handuwa Oba Sanda' in two entirely different types of villages. While bringing a grave absurdity to the village he set in 'Sanasaranyaye Dadayakkaraya' he neutralises and brings out the utmost innocence of the Sri Lankan village in 'Sagara Jalaya Madi Handuwa Oba Sanda'.

Although Kafka's work has elicited various critical interpretations, he himself characterized his fiction as symbolic manifestations of his "dreamlike inner life" in which he attempted to reconcile feelings of guilt and insecurity. In recent years, some critics have explored Kafka's relationship with Judaism as demonstrated by his texts. For many critics, Kafka's greatness resides in his ability to transform his private torment into universal fables.

Religion plays a crucial role in Nawagattegama's works. Many critics believe that he has been influenced by tantric or Mahayana philosophies. He might have read about all of those concepts and he could add flavours to his writings by elaborating them literarily. But generally he brings out most simple concepts of Buddhism in his works. Desire and detachment are key Buddhist concepts that Navagattegama often takes as a base in his works. He presents desire in 'Sansaranyaye Dadayakkaraya' by using extensive set of symbols: treasures, the kingly cobra who protects the treasures and how it was able to get rid of the responsibility of protecting the treasures.

One of the most acclaimed and influential twentieth-century writers, Kafka is renowned for prophetic and profoundly enigmatic stories that often portray human degradation and cruelty. In his works, Kafka presents a grotesque vision of the world in which alienated, angst-ridden individuals vainly seek to transcend their condition or pursue some unattainable goal.

Contrastively, Navagattegama does not set an unattainable goal in his literary works. A positive and reachable reason can be always seen in his writings as silver line seen in a dark and cloudy sky. 'Sapekshani' and 'Kshira Sagaraya Kelambina' are the most positive works done by Navagattegama.

Navagattegama's fiction derives its power from his use of precise, dispassionate prose and realistic detail to relate bizarre, often absurd events, and from his probing treatment of moral and spiritual problems.

Underneath every heavily philosophical attribute, a simple and natural writer sits in his works.

The shadow of Kafka simply fading out and literarily independent Simon Navagattegama of Sinhala literature emerges. Naither the 'isms' nor "Kafkaesque," can describe Navagattegama in best. His unique style of writing only does.


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