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Wednesday, 24 November 2010

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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.

An 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 a history.

"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 literature.

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

Edmund Jayasuriya

W A Silva (1956)

Professor Tissa Kariyawasam

Professor Jinadasa Danansuriya

Professor Senerat Paranavithana (1958)

T G W de Silva

Rabindranat Tagore

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

Namel Weeramuni

Ashley Ratnavibhoosana

Kumara Liyanage

Manjith Bawa

Mahinda Ratnayaka

S Nandalal

Satsara Ilangasinghe

Nilushini Buddhika

Dhamma Dissanayaka

Bobby G Boteju

Consultant Editor : Karunadasa Sooriyaarachchi

Editor: Sumudu Chathurani Jayawardana

Coordinators : Nuwan Nayanajith Kumara and Tironi Wevalage

 

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