Book lovers, this treasure trove is a must for you
When the National Library and Documentation Services Board (NLDSB) carried out a random survey at last September’s Colombo International Book Fair among visitors ranging from just below 12 years and up to 26, the most widely read and most loved book was found to be “Madol Doova”, by Martin Wickramasinghe. His other significant book, ”Gamperaliya”, later translated into English as “Uprooted” too made the top ten list in the survey.
The results of the survey did not surprise officials of the NLDSB. Being the proud custodians of the priceless collection of the entire library of the late author as well as much of his memorabilia, they were delighted to find that Martin Wickramasinghe continues to inspire new generations of readers, nearly four decades after his demise and even longer since his books were first published.
The Martin Wickramasinghe Trust (MWT) donated the entire library and the memorabilia that was at the Nawala home of the late writer where he lived up to the time of his demise in July, 1976. The collection consists of over 5,000 titles from writers ranging from D.H. Lawrence to R.K.Narayan to a host of Russian writers. The donation was made in 1990 to commemorate the 100th birth anniversary of Martin Wickramasinghe, who started out as a journalist and went onto become one of the most prolific and best loved writers in the country. The collection is a treasure trove for both researchers as well as book lovers.
“Martin Wickamasinghe was an avid reader and he was self-taught. It is a great source of inspiration for us that younger generations in this country continue to read his books and find great pleasure in them,” Library Board Director General W. Sunil said.
The Hall of Life of Literature as the Martin Wickramasinghe collection is called has been constructed by the Trust as a replica of the room in his home. “The windows of his office room at
his Nawala residence opened out to some paddy fields. This illusion has been created in the space at the NSDLB which houses the collection so that visitors get a real sense of being in the same room that the great writer spent countless hours in,” W. Sunil said. Several of his handwritten manuscripts, gifts received from abroad are among the interesting items that can be seen at the Hall of Literature housed on the second floor of the National Library and Documentation Services Board building in Colombo 7.“One interesting thing about Martin Wickramasinghe was that he scribbled short comments on the side of the page as he read a book. When you browse through some of the books in his collection, you can comprehend what thoughts would have gone through his mind as he turned the pages,” the Director General said.
In his autobiography “Upan Da Sita” (From day of birth) Martin Wickramasinghe himself refers to his love for reading. “My body grew like that of any Sinhala villager. My mind however developed differently. The benefit of a private education from a centre or from learned pundits was not
available to me. I resorted to learning directly exploring my world and, by eagerly reading books.”
The Library Board is keen to promote its services among the public and hopes that the Martin Wickramasinghe Collection will be better utilised by the researchers as well as keen followers of the late writer’s life and works to enhance their knowledge. The NLDC collection also includes periodicals, a comprehensive local newspaper collection from 1976 to date, a connection of thesis and dissertations , an ola leaf and folk lore collection, over a 1000 maps relating to Sri Lanka as well as a collection of rare books.
There are also reading room facilities. All facilities are available to members of the NLSDB. Any Sri Lankan can become a member by paying a minimal rate. The Library Board is open Monday to Saturday from 8.30 a.m. onwards and also includes a book sales outlet.