From conversations to knowledge
Newspapers hardly last long, as they consume space over space. That
should be why yellowed papers are either sold away for a song or end up
being soaked in oil for an evening victual. Luckily Sri Lankans are yet
not in the habit of throwing away books like most foreigners. Books are
still somewhat a luxury to be thrown away.
article, however important it may be, lasts only for a few days, or
weeks, at most. Books, though gathering dust, are tossed into a shelf at
least for a later reference. Quite on the contrary newspapers don't
enjoy such privilege. Rarely does anyone take pains to go to an archives
department and bite dust to dig into old newspapers.
These very environs force-open a path. Journalists write columns,
short stories, a novel in episodes, and other belles lettres and publish
them later as a book. Sherlock Holmes came into existence as a result of
episodes in the Strand Magazine. So were most of the celebrated authors,
both local and foreign.
In Sri Lankan newspaper industry, ANCL has pioneered this tradition.
Sanlapa is an anthology of interesting writings that appeared in the
Punkalasa literary supplement of our sibling newspaper Silumina. Though
not quite long as the newspaper itself, this literary supplement too has
"Those days Silumina was only 10 cents. Everybody knew it as the
10-cent university. This is one fact that the Sinhala newspaper could
change the ideals of the society. Most of the journalists have ignored
that today. We heard that it's going to be revived under a different
name. Then obviously there are issues of getting suitable articles and
the number of contributors."
Professor A V Suraweera made this public comment before Silumina
Editor Karunadasa Sooriyaarachchi and its Deputy Editor Nandana
Weerasinghe initiated the Punkalasa in 2006. That was a challenge,
without doubt. But being literati themselves, both Sooriyaarachchi and
Weerasinghe made it happen.
In 2007 they launched a volume of articles published in the Punkalasa
between 2006 and 2007. That was the first step. And that's where the
editors have quoted professor Suraweera.
Sanlapa was born just this September but has walked up a few miles
off its ancestor. Sooriyaarachchi is still the Editor, but Weerasinghe
is gone, followed by Sumudu Chathurani Jayawardana to take reins of the
supplement. 2010's Sanlapa has no time barricades; it cruises down to
the 1950s to bring the likes of W A Silva into life, besides the
recently deceased: Senerat Paranavaithana, T G W Silva, Premasiri
Khemadasa and Ediriweera Sarachchandra.
Sanlapa should be read as if you travel in a bus from Colombo to
Anuradhapura. You come across many stopovers: amusing quotes, poetry,
translations, interviews and miscellaneous articles. The subjects range
among critics, music, drama, ancient and modern literature,
reminiscences, Buddhism, archeology, linguistics and translation
The quotes indicate certain stages of the local cultural scene. In
2008 Hemaratne Liyanaarachchi looks back at the writings of his
generation in the 50s and 60s. Those writings, he comments, are
experimental mostly drawing inspiration from the West. That was so -
after all, Sri Lanka was still a Ceylon!
If you question and protest the translation literature then Cyrcil C
Perera, a veteran in the field, reminds you that our own Jataka book is
a translation from the Pali. Padma Edirisinghe reminisces the days when
editorial departments were not much staffed by females.
Wonderfully interesting piece is written by W A Silva - how he had
written his famous novel Siriyalatha. Silva says the old Sinhala books
improved his grammar while the English books sharpened his creative
knowledge. He admits to have known nothing about writing novels, except
for the influence of having read a good deal of English novels. Silva
analyzes his own novel as dramatic, and doesn't see any other
contemporary novel to that effect.
Interestingly he notices that if he had an untimely death, then he
wouldn't be credited to have authored the book. A monk would have
claimed authorship instead. W A Silva's Sinhala, though it belongs to
those good old days, is dramatic, simple and above all, beautiful; for a
moment you have the feel of reading a novel chapter.
The anthology also features Dr Lakshmi de Silva and Edmund Jayasuriya
who have sweated blood to introduce Sinhala literature into English.
What they opine about both languages may vary, but should be appealing
for a linguist. The interviews provide guidelines to a budding
journalist on how it should be done properly. Although the interviewee
may not sound convincing, there are many facts to learn and grasp. All
the contributors, both interviewees and independent writers, are
featured with a small description where necessary.
Sanlapa means, if loosely translated, 'conversations' in English.
Conversation, it is said even in the Buddhist scriptures, sharpens
knowledge, hence is one path to wisdom. That's where both blue and white
collar communities get along. That's where Sanlapa turns into a journey
from conversations to knowledge.
[ Writers featured in Sanlapa ]
Professor Wimal Dissanayaka
Professor Sunanda Mahendra
Dr Premasiri Khemadasa
Professor Sunil Ariyaratne
Dr Gunadasa Amarasekara
Dr Lakshmi de Silva
W A Silva (1956)
Professor Tissa Kariyawasam
Professor Jinadasa Danansuriya
Professor Senerat Paranavithana (1958)
T G W de Silva
Professor G L Prematilaka
K B Manewa
Ven Professor Devalagema Medhananda Thera
Professor Chandra Wickramagamage
Professor Sudarshan Seneviratne
Professor Raj Somadeva
Dr Ashoka Premaratne
Dr Praneeth Abhayasundara
Professor Ediriweera Sarachchadnra (1989)
Dr Premadasa Sri Alawattage
Bobby G Boteju
Consultant Editor : Karunadasa
Editor: Sumudu Chathurani Jayawardana
Coordinators : Nuwan Nayanajith Kumara and