An adventurous journey through 2,500 years of history
Serendipity of Andrew George by Prof. Ananda W.P. Guruge. Reviewed by Dr. A. D. Priyanka Baddevithana
Serendipity of Andrew George published by Godage International Publishers (Pvt.) Ltd. was launched on April 5, at the Mahaweli Centre in Colombo. The author, Prof. Ananda Guruge made a special visit to Sri Lanka from America, his country of domicile, and the first copy was presented to the Minister of Urban Development and Sacred Area Development Dinesh Gunawardena.
If promoted wisely, this book will be a great boon to Sri Lanka’s diplomatic and international missions as it fosters an understanding of one of the world’s most vibrant civilizations, unique for its uninterrupted recorded history spanning over 2,500 years. The Department of Education should make this book compulsory reading in schools and universities as it gives a contemporary perspective to understanding the evolution of Sri Lankan culture.
The reader embarks on an adventure through the experiences of a young American academic by the name Andrew George, a professor living in Hampshire in the mid 1960s. His application for a Fulbright research grant to study cultural assimilation in a developing country which had deep seated internecine conflicts, lands him in Sri Lanka, known to the west at the time as Ceylon. The brilliance of Prof. Guruge is apparent from the way he makes the reader accept the Sri Lankan genealogy of the protagonist Andrew George who confesses his shame in the opening pages of the book as to his lack of knowledge on Ceylon despite being a University Professor.
The book is unique in the way it approaches many subjects that are sensitive to the human psyche with astounding objectivity. With the unusual rise to professional heights so early in life, Professor Guruge’s long years of active involvement and exposure nationally and internationally manifest as colourful experiences he shares with the reader through the protagonist Andrew George.
The author’s skill shines through as he takes the reader on a most informative, exhaustive and rewarding journey through time with Andrew George to all corners of our resplendent land. The use of many doyens of Sri Lankan history such as Prof. G. P. Malalasekera as characters, and including himself in the real-life role of highly accomplished young civil servant Dr. Ananda Guruge of the times, the author renders authenticity and genuine real-life character to the protagonist.
Elements of suspense and surprise sustain the reader’s interest and enthusiasm throughout. Andrew George ends up as any Sri Lankan of the modern times, a cultural byproduct of historically deep-rooted internecine conflicts. Therefore, the author turns the objective academic interest in the beginning of the book to subjective reality by the end of it.
Running into nearly 700 pages of comprehensive history, geography, culture and drama spanning three continents of America, Europe and Asia, Prof. Guruge paints a credible picture with multi-colours of facts and fiction to illumine and entertain the reader.
Prof. Guruge’s love for Sri Lanka has inspired this extraordinary literary work. It remains our responsibility to make maximum use of it to develop an understanding in our emerging generation of the unique strength of cultural diversity we possess. The only way to do this is to integrate this literary work to our system of education.