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22nd November 1998

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Mirror Magazine

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A fine selection of short stories

How many of us knew that the Cultural Department had put out several books to mark the Golden Jubilee Independence Anniversary? But it's not easy to lay your hands on them. Most of them are in the stores somewhere pending a decision on the prices. They had only been available on the day they were formally presented to the Minister. That was months ago.

Jayanthi Bookshop (near the Art Gallery) had two on sale - one a superb collection of Sinhala short stories and the other, an anthology of Sri Lankan Literature in English. The Anthology of Sinhala short stories titled Thoragath Sinhala Keti Katha features 26 selected stories written by the best known Sinhala writers. Beginning with Martin Wickremasinghe's Geheniyak published in 1924, the collection ends with Dayasena Gunasinghe's Kethumati Hotalaye Rathriyak and Sarath Wijesuriya's Akka, both published in 1986.

Geheniyak was also the title of Martin Wickremasinghe's first collection of short stories. (He wrote his first novel, Leela when he was 23- in 1913).In a preface, Professor A V Suraweera points out that in the early days short stories appeared in newspapers and journals. It was only later that the practice of publishing them as collections came into vogue. He is confident the Sinhala short story can match any other in the global literary scene due to its development over the years influenced first by the Jataka story tradition and later by English, Russian, French, German and Asian traditions.

Among other short stories picked up for the anthology from the early days (till the end of the fifties) are W A Silva's Sakviti Raja (1927), G B Senanayake's Kalahaya (1945), Hemapala Munidasa's Agutumitta (1946), Gunadasa Amarasekera's Disonchihamine (1953), K Jayatilaka's Vesak, Vesak, Vesak (1955), T G W de Silva's Pretha Dishtiya (1955) and Madawela S Ratnayaka's Kuhumbuwo (1957).

The inclusion of pen portraits of the writers along with their illustrations (cleverly done by artist Somasiri Herath) add value to the book. Cyril C Perera, G S B Senanayake and D M Gunaratne deserve a pat on the back for an excellent job done in editing the anthology. And a word to the Cultural Department. Why not advertise these publications in the mass media and let the readers know of their existence?

- Ranat

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