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බූන්දියට එන පාර

වයර් දිගේ- | ගොළුඛෙලි තැපෑලෙන්- බූන්දියේ අපි, 190/3/A, කැන්දලියැද්දපාළුව, රාගම.


The name Simon Nawagattegama has been almost a legend in Sinhalese literary and artistic circles for some time. Everybody has heard of him. He was famous, but for what no one exactly knew. He came from very humble origins, which as important qualification for being a writer in Ceylon as it is being the president of the United States.

At one time it was being whispered about that he was married but no one has met his wife. Suddenly he climbed the stage and showed a remarkable virtuosity as an actor. Then he wrote and produces his own play showing such mastery of stage craft that it looked as if he had done nothing but produce plays all his life. Actually no one thought that he had ever been to see a Sinhalese play, and wondered how he gained the experience.

I met Nawagattegama ten year ago when he entered university as an undergratuate. In a few months he brought out a voulume of short stories and everybody began to talk about this prodigy from Vanniya. He walked about the campus with a volume of Dostovesky in his hand discussing philosophy and poetry. Then he suddenly disappeared, and nothing was heard of him for a long time. He showed some promise in his short stories but after some time I gave up hope about him. I was wondering whether Nawagattegama legend was not a myth, after all, and It was his cultivated bohemianism that started it.

After a silence of nearly ten years, he has now come out with a book of stories, some short, some long, and I now find that I must revise my opinion about him and that I have to reaffirm my earlier faith in him. The stories have a freshness about them which I do not remember having encountered in Sinhala fiction since Gunadasa Amarasekara first made an appearance.

Nawagattegama brings us life in the raw, with all its elemental passions and its struggle with man and nature. Human suffering seems to be their recurrent theme. But in the midst of suffering and death, there is life offering its consolidations, however grim and ironical they may be. This is the theme of "Kassippukarayo" (The Kassippu- makers) perhaps the most poignant in the collection.

I think I like "Sithuwilli...Sithuwilli...Sithuwilli" (Reflections, Reflections and Reflections) best but this is only a personal prediction, because all the stories in this collection have an individuality of their own and can be enjoyed alike. It is the most cleverly constructed perhaps, with its subtle undercurrent suggestion that holds up suspense till the end. Here again the theme seems to be, to my mind, the contrast between suffering, old age, and death (Jathi-Jara-Marana) on one hand and youth and life on the other.

The son sits by the bedside of the sick and dying farther, prepared for the all night watch, but duties seem irksome to him, and his patience falters. Outside the depressing atmosphere pf this bedroom, however, air is fresh and life pulsate in the youthful form of Anula the maid. His duties finally become tolerable and even pleasant merely by the presence of this girl.

Her restraint is a reminder to him of the need to discipline one's emotions and to perform one's duties however dull they be. And he has no other he has no other choice but to tread this path. However, her silent attractiveness lights up this path with some joy and promise, and he reconciles himself to his choice.

The first story, which is practically a novelette, did not interest me very much, nor did the last "Lamaya saha Mala" (The child and the flower) which is in the same vein. In them he exploits the theme of the relationship between man and nature, in a manner reminiscent of Garshin, but I somehow felt that the symbolism in the first story did not click. In the last story the symbolism is intelligible, but is it not merely a guise to cloth a narration that would otherwise become a sentimental and trivial?

"Ohu Miya Giya Pasu" (After he died) is a powerful story of a clash between the elemental nature in a remote village setting of a Vanni. It moves from one dramatic climax to another holding the reader in its grip by the sheer force of narration and dialogue. But one wonders in the end what the author wishes to convey. If he wishes to bring home to the reader the effect of the irrational quarrel of the elders upon the innocent and beautiful relationship of the two younger children as the reader is lead to expect, this aspect is over shadowed by many other considerations that spring up in the course of the story, and the reader is left somewhat disappointed.

Nawagattegama'slanguage is redolent of the atmosphere of Vanni village, enriched as it is by the native speech and idiom of the people of those parts and also by his own suggestive imagery.

I must conclude by saying that Nawagattegama is heartily welcomed after his long absence and that we expect him to give us more and more writings in the future.

[Photo courtesy of Harsha Aravinda's FB Page]

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