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
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
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
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
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
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.