ISSN: 1391 - 0531
Sunday, Octomber 15, 2006
Vol. 41 - No 20

Chronicle of an on-going odyssey

Through Winds Of Fire by Tyronne Fernando. Publisher: Vijitha Yapa Publications. Reviewed by Kalakeerthi Edwin Ariyadasa

A word of caution seems apt at the outset.

If one were to approach the present tome, adopting the conventional attitude, taken up towards run-of-the mill “Autobiographies”, one would not be able to imbibe the special spirit that dominates this work. It is customarily assumed, that, an autobiography, should start at the beginning, come to the middle and should eventually reach the end.

This chronological procedure, mars the liveliness of the story of an individual’s progress through life, reacting to his human destiny, in the unique style, specific to him.

The author of this book – the reputed statesman Tyronne Fernando – dares to be different. He is bent on capturing comprehensively the lushness of his life todate, in living and scintillating hindsight, refraining from squeezing it into a restricting template.

Trekking through the anecdote – studded pages of this rich and luxurious volume, is an exercise very much parallel to a treasure hunt. If you relax your attention-span, even momentarily you are quite likely to miss a telling detail, possessing a potentiality to reveal surprising facets of the central character.

The writer dissects his life’s experiences with a clinical purity and an admirable detachment, for the most part. These personality assets, occupy centrestage in his autobiographical narration especially when he looks back on his intimate personal relations.

As the autobiographer chronicles it, a whole cluster of steely strands converged to form the unyielding personality of the author. The dynamism that propelled him forward, emerged through the synthesis of his domestic heritage, Oxford seasoning and above all, his uncompromising sense of justice and fair play. It is evident, that a good part of the sustaining vigour that enabled the author to negotiate his way through “Winds of Fire”, that continued to assail him and confront him with daunting challenges, came from his undiminished sense of humour and disarming wit.

In a defining foreword Michael J. Beloff, President, Trinity College Oxford, alludes to the alchemizing potential of the Oxford Union Society to transform “the best and brightest into the great and the good.”

The author came under that Union Society spell, which elevated him to life-time membership of the exclusive coterie of “The great and the good.”

The recurrent phrase that keeps on running through the pages of this narration, asserts a philosophy of danger-courting. In many a context in this work, the writer’s daring avowal is “I would face the winds of fire and plunge in at the deep end.” This driving and compelling motivation, made him eschew the need to “play safe.”

Though the author dwells on his early years, with marked restraint and reticence, the humane urges that stirred within the young soul, come through quite vividly. His ardent espousal of a whole host of causes, was in effect, a formative rehearsal of the hurly-burly of political involvement that awaited him in the years to come. According to him, the admission of women to the Oxford Union, was a cause he “spearheaded in the pursuit of Justice.” The same compulsion persuaded him to agitate against the horrors of colonialism and the soul-killing monstrosities of apartheid.

In spite of the fact, that in his modesty he may slur over some of his achievements at Oxford, he was both Chairman of the Labour Club as well as the President of Majlis - the Afro-Asian Society. With an identical sense of constraint he makes only passing references to his romantic forays during his Oxford days, leaving the submerged bulk of the ice-berg, to the reader’s imagination.

When the narration moves into the arena of contemporary Sri Lankan politics, the author’s personal view-points and his special perspective, invariably begin to assert themselves.

The author lines up an impressive array of political personalities, assessing their public and personal lives, in terms of the perception peculiar to him. Some of these stalwarts have been gone for some time and many others are still prominent players in the intriguing game of politics.

The segment in which the author profiles these outstanding men and women, could very well be reprinted as a separate book, to provide absorbing reading.

To my mind these pen-portraits may, in some instances, provoke lusty controversy since there may be many who may not see eye to eye with some of the analyses. Whatever that may be, the illuminating insights of the author, in to the character-traits of these persons of high profile, enable readers to see these men and women in a fresh light.

The author asserts by implication, that numerous interactions he had, with the personalities, who exerted an influence on the people and the country at a variety of levels, moulded his own personality, at least vestigially.

His discussions of the ins and outs of these political figures have now entered into the public domain, through his printed discourse in this book. One cannot help but ask the question that is likely to follow. These views will invariably evoke salutary indignant, controversial or downright irate responses, in terms of the interpretations of various groups and individuals. The author has indeed plunged into the “Deep End” with these character-portrayals – and, one can be quite certain that he is ready to cope with any reaction or response to his statements.

In a pre-eminent display of his perpetual readiness to face any issue squarely, the author has achieved a ‘first’ here, by taking up personalities and politics of contemporary Sri Lanka to subject them to a public scrutiny. This initiative is quite likely to call up a wide variety of reactions and responses.

Over the years the author has assiduously garnered an ample supply of variegated experiences, that can provide material for musings at several book-lengths.

What he has done here is, threshing his life-long experiences into readily utilizable nuggets of practical wisdom.

His picturesque odyssey through a very eminent and multi-faceted career has in a manner of speaking, just begun.

The closing chapter of the present work unerringly indicates that he has currently acquired a lofty vision, in which he could take a panoptic view of the challenges that haunt contemporary human society.

It is my considered view that ”Through Winds of Fire” should occupy a distinguished niche in the literature of our land.

As for the author, statesman and aesthete Tyronne Fernando, the compiling of these precious thoughts into a book-length discourse is not at all the end.

Echoing the wisdom of the Mediterranean Professor, quoted early in this book, one could quite aptly indicate to the author, “It is a long way to the stars.”

There are many more winds of fire to go through and many a deep end to plunge into.

This is a work replete with layers of optimistic nuances, and indispensable reading material for anyone who contemplates life with due seriousness. Especially those young people, who feel daunted by the challenges of life, should peruse this work assiduously, to strengthen their flagging resolve.

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.