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

The price of benevolence…

By Rita Perera, Kelaniya

The annual Book Exhibition and Fair in Colombo is an event looked forward to by the literate of all ages. From children just beginning to read to ageing book-lovers like myself, the crowds that throng to this fair make it evident that it has become one of the best literary and cultural festivals of the year.

It is made possible due to the combined efforts of most of the bookshops and book publishers in Sri Lanka and even some from abroad. They not only transport vast quantities of the stock and provide lavish displays of their books but sell them at greatly discounted prices.

The choice of venue, the BMICH would seem the best, most central and secure available. However, this year, disproved the myth of security, when 38 lakhs of rupees was stolen one night from the Godage’s bookstall at the exhibition.

Mr. Godage is a publisher, who is and has been a boon to aspiring writers in the Sinhala, English and Tamil languages. He never charged writers for the cost of publishing their books and without his assistance countless books, whether they were novels, poetry, history, biography or every other imaginable educational subject, would never have been printed or published.

It obviously involved an immense outlay of capital especially, when the authors had never been published before, but Mr. Godage was always willing to take the risk and up to now his efforts have been rewarded. With the goodwill his actions generated, his bookshop expanded and is now an emporium, employing a large number of staff. However, the scale of the robbery has necessarily put a brake on his efforts to promote literary talents in this country.

When I spoke to him, his habitual equanimity had not lessened, but one could feel the pain he was trying to hide.

He said that he may now have to reconsider his former policy of publishing books without levying a charge, unless he was able to sell one of his ancestral properties to defray such costs. When I asked him if the stolen money was likely to be recovered and the thieves caught, he was despondent.

In the present climate in this country, the tragedy is that such robberies are so common the police now seem to regard the routine of even looking for the perpetrators, a futile exercise. The losers are the reading public, who would now be deprived of countless potential publications by aspiring, talented but mostly poor writers, who may no longer be able to depend or rely on Deshabandu Sirisumana Godage to publish their creative efforts…

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Copyright 2006 Wijeya Newspapers Ltd.Colombo. Sri Lanka.