Commemoration of 88th Birth Anniversary :
A memorial lecture was delivered by Prof Ranjini Obeyesekere on
Translations: The Art of Attempting the Impossible to commemorate the
88th Birth Anniversary of Regi Siriwardena in Colombo recently.
"He was a fellow translator, a fellow academic. Someone I knew well
and was close to. So this paper on translation for me was an attempt to
pay him a tribute," said Prof Ranjini Obeyesekere.
"Regi was a translator par excellence. Especially poetry which he
passionately loved. He was a rare translator who became so enamoured
with the Russian poet Pushkin that he learnt Russian in order to read
"Having done so he then translated his favourite Russian poems into
English for us. He was a critic, a dramatist, creative writer and
translator. Regi was a renaissance man.
"He was that rare calibre of critic, sensitive, well read and
immensely competent who we knew would assess, evaluate and comment on
the quality of a performance without patronage and malice but with
deadly honesty. What Regi Siriwardena said about a play had a tremendous
impact on audiences. Those characteristics and generosity of spirit
remained with him throughout his life as generations of friends and
colleagues will vouch.
"Today I have decided to talk about translations, what Robert Frost
described as 'Attempting the Art of the impossible'.
"Because it was that impossible Art that he and I were often engaged
in. And which we discussed over the years. And it is only that passion
in a translator that can make the impossible possible. Translation has
always been and will always be the lifeblood that feeds Sri Lankan life
"How so one might ask? Being a small island located at the crossroads
of sea routes connecting the Western and Eastern worlds over the
centuries, Sri Lanka has been a contact point for different linguistic,
ethnic and cultural forces."
Journalist and foreign correspondent Lakshman Gunasekera also spoke.
- Ishara Jayawardane