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Wednesday, 27 July 2011



Rediscovering Piyadasa Sirisena's creative trends

While paying attention to the ongoing discourse on aspects of the necessity to rediscover some significant creations of the past, I had the chance to do so as regards certain Sinhala novels by Piyadasa Sirisena. Most Sinhala novels written by Sirisena are not to be found in bookshelves, and they do not come to be reprinted as there is no critical attention laid on them.

My attention was drawn to the first three Sinhala novels by Sirisena titled as Vasanavantha Vivahaya Hevat Jayatissa Saha Roslin (1904), Apata Vechcha De (1909) and Maha Viyavula (1909). These popular works are said to have been quite popular at the time of publication. Apata Vecha De emerged as the most significant work bearing the salient elements of a novel in its most 'modern' concept.

Recognised as a social discourse on matters pertaining to the defence, social and cultural uplifting, rescuing them from the colonial pangs, Sirisena, as a creator, utilized quite a number of forms and contents that capture the attention of the reader. In 1904 writing a short preface to Jayatissa Saha Roslin, Sirisena reveals his awareness of the creative works in the west, as a comparative researcher of two cultures: the orient and the occident.

While admitting the fact that narrative forms were in vogue for 1000 years in the orient, Sirisena had also been influenced by the works called 'novels', a term widely used in the west. He emphatically says that the oriental narrative forms have been known by the literary enthusiasts, but the novel had paved the way for more popular techniques.

Piyadasa Sirisena

Sirisena too emphasises how some of the occidental writers have utitlised creative expression as a mode and a catalyst to remould social stigmas such as foreign control of state power, importing and stamping an alien culture in a different state and empowerment of alien values into the body of an indigenous masses. When these factors are laid down, Sirisena stimulates a continuous interest.

The protagonist of his first novel Jayatissa is made to undergo quite a number of social struggles to win the heart of Roslin who later acquires a local name called Rupavathi. At the time of writing the above cited Sinhala novels, Sirisena had observed how two minor ethnic groups have infiltrated their value systems of the local ethnic groups. They are the groups belonging to the descendents of Dutch, namely Burghers (he named them as lansi) and the other as a group of traders called Marakkala (perhaps a derogatory term for Muslims).

While the former were playful and merriment in their most behaviour patterns, the latter were more conscious about earning a living via trading. But the observer Jayatissa finds the racial group known as Sinhala Bauddhaya as a lost generation or a generation that had lost the indigenous balance of living through possession of a great heritage. Sirisena skillfully utilises a dialogue that drives in the required value system, which he deems as 'lost'.

He also uses fantasy, where he makes the protagonist find himself lost in a forest and then encountered by a saint who teaches meditation and sermonizes on subjects such as moral behaviour and righteous living. Sirisena makes use of poetry as a stream of consciousness to express inner feelings of his characters.

As such quite a number of literary techniques are used to create a better literary structure. Taking a synoptic view of the creative structure of Sirisena, a reader may see that he utilizes practically all the literary forms of the west writers like Scott, Thackeray, Hardy, Dickens and George Eliot.

Though Sirisena is not seen glued into one particular genre of a canon nevertheless uses the objective correlative for investigation, detection and interpretation of social issues of the day.

In this manner in a synoptic view, which may be a starting point, Piyadasa Sirisena needs to be understood more analytically than it is done today. Most of these works were either serialised or partly printed in his Sinhala Jatiya, which appeared first as a periodical more then a weekly national newspaper.

He was vigilant and conscious of the issues of the day, which in turn paved the way to be a pioneer novelist. I am of the view that this brief interpretation could lead to a modern textual analysis. sunandamahendra@gmail.com


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