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16th May 1999
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Kala Korner

  • Books aplenty but...
  • What goes into a novel
  • 'I will go back someday'
  • What the Buddha said
  • Books aplenty but...

    Sixty one per cent of our population have not read a book in six months. 72% have not bought a book for reading in six months. The figures are revealing, inspite of the regular release of books by publishers. 

    Quoting these figures in what he described as "disappointing results of a survey done by the Ministry of Cultural Affairs", Deputy Minister, Professor A V Suraweera stressed the need to improve the reading habit. He was addressing a full house at the Savsiripaya Auditorium recently at the release of Sarvodaya Vishva Lekha's latest publications in English.

    He also spoke of the need to create awareness of our books abroad to build up a market outside Sri Lanka. Yet he wasn't quite sure whether the quality of printing was right. "Quality has improved but there is a long way to go," he said.

    Sarvodaya chief, A .T. Ariyaratne, of course, had a different view. He felt the quality was quite good and can match international standards. But the problem was elsewhere. There were obstacles from political quarters for the development of book publishing.

    He also had an answer to improving the reading habit. "Open a bookshop next to each liquor shop," he suggested. MPs can help in this venture by getting liquor shops to divert some monies.

    What goes into a novel

    The much talked about, 'The Winds of Sinhala' (a novel based on King Dutugemunu) came out in a new edition at the Vishva Lekha launch. Writer Colin de Silva (domiciled in Hawaii) was present. After Tissa Abeysekera made his observations, the writer talked about the need to encourage Sri Lankan writers (both in Sri Lanka and abroad) to write more in English. "Today, we live in a world of English," he said. He was donating Rs. 50,000 from the sale of the book towards a fund to help Sri Lankan writers in English.

    He identified the key contents in a novel. Apart from the plot, drama is an important factor. Drama was needed to grip the reader. Drama produces passion. Style was also important. The style of the language should fit in to the time the story is set. 

    Modern usage of words will not be suitable for a period piece. Pay attention in drafting every word, he advised writers. Incidentally, Professor Suraweera was not altogether happy about 'The Winds of Sinhala'. "I was angry when I read the book," he said but did not say why.

    'I will go back someday'

    Introducing the new edition of a book he wrote 30 years ago - The Beggar in Sri Lanka' - having lived as a beggar for one year, Professor Nandasena Ratnapala raised a good laugh from the audience when he said he led a most satisfying life as a beggar. "People said I was disguised as a beggar. No, that's wrong. I was a beggar for one whole year. Any day I would like to go back to that life," he said hinting that was how he would like to spend his retirement.

    That was not all. He was a 'kasippu' producer for three months. And then moved about with pimps and prostitutes for another couple of months.He collected data which was of tremendous interest to the researcher.

    Dr Ratnapala has also done research on tourism. The findings of that study too came out in published form under the title 'Tourism in Sri Lanka - The Social Impact'.

    What the Buddha said

    An academic based in Hawaii, Professor David J. Kalupahana's hard labour for 40 years also bore fruit that day with the release of two titles - 'Buddha and Concept of Peace' and 'The Buddha's Philosophy of Language'. The works were the result of delving deep into the Buddha's teaching as documented in texts in Pali, Sanskrit, Chinese and Tibetan.

    Professor Kalupahana was critical of English translations of the Buddha's teachings. "These translators have failed to understand the teachings" he said, giving several examples of mistakes, quoting from the original texts.

    Sounds of superb mastery and shouts of encore

    After the entrancing evening on May 6 Thursday with the European Union Chamber Orchestra, a second visit on May 7 to the Elphinston Theatre where they performed was an irresistible temptation. At the end of the day it was well worth it, a most rewarding musical experience. 

    The first day's programme was replete with Haydn and Mozart and the most enthralling of all that day was the solo violin performance by Lavard Skou Larsen, who was also director of the orchestra, playing the Mozart Violin Concerto in C Major K.216. Little wonder since like Mozart himself, Skou Larson was something of a child prodigy playing at age five and appearing as soloist with orchestras in Austria and Brazil, winning the Christa Aichter Steiner Prize from the Association of Friends of the Mozarteum Academy and in 1991 appointed to teach violin at the Mozarteum Music Academy in Salzburg. 

    On Friday the programme was rather more varied with a work each by Edward Elgar (Serenade for Strings Op. 20), Sibelius (Romance for Strings Op. 42). Haydn (Symphony No. 64 in A Major) and Mozart. The Mozart Piano Concerto in E flat K. 271 "Jeunehomme" is said to be a landmark in the history of the genre comparable to that of Beethoven's Eroica in the history of the symphony. 

    As Christian Seibert the youthful German pianist born in 1975 played the Mozart Piano Concerto with mastery and gusto, it was sheer virtuosity that had the audience on its feet with shouts of "encore." He obliged with yet another superb extension from the same concerto. 

    The newly furbished Elphinston Hall was just the right choice for the holding of a chamber concert. It was cool, compact and the acoustics couldn't be better than in any other venue in the city. It might interest those who were lucky to attend the performances to know that the EUCO has many distinguished artists including Cyprien Katsaris, James Gallway, Mischa Maisky and Igor Oistrakh. 

    The concerts on May 6 and 7 were sponsored by the ABM AMRO Bank among others. Classical music aficionados would be well advised to look out for more such concerts such as these which were indeed unsurpassed for quality in this genre. 

    Hussain P. Saibo 

    Dragged into a gushing stream of poignant emotion

    Thuruliya Akuruwiya-Nature Stirs into New Life - An Anthology of Poetry- by Buddadasa Galappatty- Reviewed by Aditha Dissanayake

    Does the picture of a naked woman entangled in the arms of a tree match the image conveyed by the poem or does it not? Should a poet let another artist illustrate his work? Should he not let the words that flowed from his own pen, and they alone, play on the mind of the reader without letting the brush strokes of a painter influence them?

    These were the questions that raced through my mind as I turned the pages of Buddhadasa Galappatty's "Thuruliya Akuruwiya" - "Nature Stirs into New Life". The poems in this, his latest anthology, have much poignancy in them to have stood far better on their own than with the support of the all too elaborate illustrations. By blotching them out, however, by willing them to be not there, they can be enjoyed for their own sakes. For, hidden behind the simple diction and style one finds a variety of concepts and emotions that touch the core of one's being.

    The opening poem Wanapetha Anduruwiya (the forest grew dark) is one such. It is perhaps the best of the collection to begin with, for the narrator manages to drag not only himself, but the reader too, into the darkness of the jungle with its wailing waterfall and black fearful shadows, shrouding both him and the reader, in a cloak of loneliness and isolation. 

    Love, as with almost all poets is one of the prominent themes. Of these Disobedience or Akeekarukama shows the poet in a playful mood. The description of the narrator trying to command his roaming eyes as he walks hand in hand with his girl, is appealing. 

    It is however, in his objective verse that Galappathy's strength as a poet lies. The intensity conveyed through the words in Biya personifies fear. Senehelatha, Kisagothameela and Mawu Bima Venuvenda are poems that leave indelible marks on the mind. The poet appeals to the senses through visual images, as seen in the description of events in Biya and Susana Boomiyedi.

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