'Damsel of Death':
The Weeramuni way
Namel Weeramuni sat on the stage of his own theatre like a Roman
statesman in a forum of antiquity. His audience comprised of so many
personalities. The keynote address which was delivered by his friend
Prof. Wimal Dissanayake was very analytical almost like those debates
held in a Roman Forum. The only thing lacking was a toga on Namel
Weeramuni. And in essence it was a debate, with some in the audience
questioning Dissanayake's perspectives.
"I accepted this invitation from Namel Weeramuni with a great deal of
enthusiasm, because I think the real need in Sri Lanka is to encourage
writing in English as well" said the Director of the Cultural studies
program at East West Centre, Wimal Dissanayake
Prof. Dissanayake is a leading international Authority on Asian
Cinema and Asian Communication theory.
"He [Namel] was a dynamic organizer of literary events when we were
undergraduates at Peradeniya, inviting distinguished writers to our
writers circle and discuss their literary work . We were seriously in
literature with all our intentions." stated Dissanayake.
"He deals with a number of themes both personal and social and one
central theme that dominates the other themes is freedom. Now freedom is
a concept fraught with difficulties but at the same time it is also a
concept with which we should grapple. Jean Paul Sartre the French
philosopher said that we are condemned to be free. Because then we have
no excuse. We cannot say God is responsible or the social structure is
responsible. We have to take responsibilities for our own actions.
Freedom carries with it a heavy burden of responsibilities." explained
Dissanyake also said that it was this type of anxiety present in
Weeramuni. He is trying to come to grips with the problematic nature of
"But his interest in freedom also manifests itself in the way he uses
the English language. He [Weeramuni] feels that we have the freedom to
use the English language in way that captures our own sense of
sensibility. That freedom is something he cherishes. The idea of freedom
is quite central to understand what he is seeking to do" added
Dissanayake went on to say that the title 'Damsel of Death' points to
the fact that Namel Weeramuni has an interest in psychological themes as
"'Damsel of Death', to my mind, points to the key concepts of Freud.
Eros and Thanatos. Eros signifies the power of love and Thanatos
signifies the power of death, the desire of death. So in some sense most
works of creativity deal with this complicated relationship between love
and death. Love cannot be understood without death. Death in turn gives
depth and definition to love. This dual interaction to me is important."
He, Prof. Dissanayake, even went on to say that death and love become
interchangeable, one taking the role of the other.
Last but not least is the man Weeramuni. He is a lawyer by profession
having practiced law in London for 29 years. Weeramuni is a dramatist, a
short story writer, poet and playwright.
"This is a collection of or an anthology of poems which I have
written over time. They are different kinds of experiences I have gone
through at different times in my life. They are expressions and also
they are creative images that I have put into poetic forms. They are
personal experiences but put into images of ideas and very much compact.
The feelings or the images I got when I was going in a plane, when I see
clouds and their formation and how they are related to life and also
when the sun pierces through the glass." said Weeramuni
Further elaborating Weeramuni said that they are actually very
personal and emotional. They mostly talk of loneliness, sometimes about
feelings of others, social political and so on.