A winner in the first attempt itself
To win a coveted award on one's maiden effort is indeed
an achievement. Former director of the Coconut Development Authority
S. N. R. Bandara achieved this distinction when he won the D. R.
Wijewardene Memorial Award for the best novel in manuscript form
received the Rs.100,000 cash award and trophy for his novel 'Ulkapatha'
from Prime Minister Mahinda Rajapakse at a ceremony held at the
BMICH on June 8. "I was completely taken by surprise. I never
imagined I would be the winner. I am thrilled,” he said.
a lover of literature had tried his hand at other spheres of creative
writing like teledrama scripts. He wrote more as a hobby but after
retiring from public service, decided to write a novel. "I
based it on the transformation seen in land policy in this country
between 1941- when the Wasteland Ordinance was introduced and 1972
-when the Land Reforms Act was introduced. It portrays the deterioration
of the plantations. Our national income has dropped from 24 per
cent to 4 per cent. This I believe is due to the effects of land
reforms. Successive generations lost interest in developing the
land," he said.
from Kurunegala, Bandara is now living in Colombo. In this, the
20th year of the presentation of the D. R. Wijewardene Memorial
Award, Bandara became the 19th recipient, the award not being presented
in 1995.This year's panel comprised Colombo University's senior
lecturer in Sinhala, Sarath Wijesuriya, Dr. Praneeth Wijesundera
from the Sri Jayawardenapura University and Latha Gurusinghe, lecturer
in Sinhala at the Colombo University.
Delivering the D. R. Wijewardene commemoration lecture,
Panel Chairman Sarath Wijesuriya commented on the quality of writing.
Having served on the panel of judges for five years, he found most
manuscripts falling into the category of abstract love stories.
A young man letting down his partner, heartbreak, building castles
in the air, and numerous problems faced due to poverty were the
popular themes. He described them as "desperate, unsuccessful
attempts of trying to imitate popular romantic novels”.
was apparent that the writers were only exposed to cheap romantic
stories either in book form or through regular serials published
in the newspapers," he said.
relating to the hardships of rural folk were also common while older
writers preferred to reflect on the past and talk about the serenity
of the village or the devotion of parents. Most of them had some
creative flair, Mr. Wijesuriya said. Illicit romances, constant
quarrels among married couples, unsuccessful married lives, failure
to satisfy the partner sexually - these formed another form of popular
significant number of manuscripts showed the ill-effects of consumerism
leading to the breakdown of accepted norms in society.The last category
was the writings revolving round the ethnic conflict and historical
novels. Here again, there was no attempt to go deep into the ethnic
issue. The writers merely used a few Tamil names and touched on
the problem on the surface, Mr. Wijesuriya said. According to him,
going through the manuscripts was a painful exercise, as was the
decision-making process. He also expressed concern about the future
of the Sinhala novel.
the root cause
In a hard-hitting speech, Mr. Wijesuriya lamented that
the universities are incapable of guiding the new generation. "We
should first identify what has happened to us. We should make a
deep study of the current social, cultural, economic and political
background in which we exist. We can't isolate the plight of the
state of the novel from the political trends,” he said.