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14th March 1999

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A lonely man, lost and confused in a desert land

Sri Lankans go in their numbers to the Middle East seeking greener pastures. They face many a hardship and go through trying times. Many also feel homesick.

Nisal, the hero in Hugh Opatha's novel, Anduru Salu Atarin is one of them. He goes to Saudi Arabia to accept an appointment as a teacher. The novel relates his story of "the pair of eyes I saw through the dark dress in a lonely moment in the waterless desert".

The writer captures the feelings of a lonely man in the desert land poignantly . The young man is not sure of his girl friend's intentions back in Sri Lanka. He is reluctant to say 'yes' to an American student who is keen to settle down with him. He develops a liking towards a Sri Lankan girl staying in his friend's house - the friend who fixed the job for him and invites him to stay with them. He is warned that the girl is engaged to a close friend of theirs. Nisal is all confused.

Opatha cleverly takes the reader through a series of events building up the emotions of the three or four characters around whom the story revolves.

Written in a readable style, 'Anduru Salu Atarin' makes the reader anxious to know what happens next.

Opatha's earlier novels were 'Nihanda Detol' (Silent lips) and Anantaya Soya (Searching for the endless). He has also a collection of short stories (Sudangi) and two radio dramas (Madhui Mamai & Mage Taniyata Mama) to his credit.

In a 'word to the reader', Opatha says he is anxious to know the feelings of the readers once they read 'Anduru Salu Atarin' and invites them to share those feelings with him.

"Your words will be a source of inspiration for my future work" he says.

- Ranat

Book Review

It's handsome and informative

Book Review Fifty Years of Sri Lanka's Independence: A Socio-Economic Review - by Professor A. D. V. de. S. Indraratne. Published by the Sri Lanka Institute of Social and Economic Studies. Reviewed by Dr. M. Ranji P. Salgado.

In mid-1997, Professor Indraratna conceived the idea of publishing a comprehensive review of socio-economic developments during the first fifty years of independent Sri Lanka to coincide with the Independence Golden Jubilee celebrations.

The review, was to address "major issues, such as (i) whether the newly won political freedom has been effectively used to provide economic freedom and social justice to all sections of the Sri Lankan people, (ii) how much economic and social progress has been achieved since 1948, (iii) what have been Sri Lanka's successes and in what spheres,(iv) where has Sri Lanka failed, and (v) whether or not the policies pursued have been proved right."

These were ambitious goals sought to be achieved through a publication to be produced within roughly a six month time frame. Readers of the publication may have different views as to how fully these goals have been met. What is undeniable is that Professor Indraratna coped with the challenge of the tight deadline he had set for himself and brought out an informative and handsome commemorative volume by the due date.

The publication consists of 29 chapters covering a variety of subjects at either national and sectoral level. Space does not permit a full listing here of the subjects covered. Suffice it to say that they range from broad perspectives of constitutional, demographic, political and macro-economic developments to more narrowly focused sectoral studies, viz. of agriculture, industry, fisheries, forestry, education, health, housing, transport, ports, tourism, insurance etc. The studies were prepared by 29 specialists, including the editor, many of whom are scholars or professionals outstanding in their fields.

Not surprisingly for a compilation of studies on a large number of subjects done under stringent time constraints, the studies vary somewhat in quality. While most of them will probably be adjudged by knowledgeable readers to be well-written and authoritative, a few appear to fall short of desirable levels of analysis and presentation.

Despite this, the contents of the volume are of such general interest and their overall quality is so high as to make the volume a valuable addition to the socio-economic literature on Sri Lanka. In particular, libraries and research institutes both here and abroad might find it useful to have the volume as a handy reference source for their readers. The publication should also find a place as an attractive souvenir item in home libraries.

However, the publication in its present hard cover format may be above the reach of students and most general readers. I would therefore recommend to Professor Indraratna that in due course he should bring out a fully revised edition of this compilation in paperback form to reach a wider market. In case he wishes to follow up on this idea, I would also offer the following suggestions.

(i) Given the size of the present hardback publication, a paperback version will probably have to be published as a two volume set. In that case, the general or national level studies could be separated from the sectoral studies, instead of being intermingled as at present and brought together in the first volume while the sectoral studies constitute the second.

(ii) Some of the studies in the present volume stop short of covering the entire 50-year time span, perhaps partly because some data for recent years might not have been available at the time the studies were prepared. All such studies could be updated in the revised edition so as to cover developments at least through the end of 1977.

(iii) The few studies that show weaknesses of analysis and presentation need to be revised. Even the other studies should be carefully scrutinized to weed out factual or typographical errors which are present even in a few of the high quality papers, perhaps because of the time pressures resulting from the tight deadline. Consistency between the textual analysis and the data in the accompanying statistical tables, which seems to be lacking in a few papers. should also be ensured.

With such improvements. and with an attractive price for the paperback volumes, the publication should become accessible to a much wider general readership as well as enhance its indispensability as a source of reference material for many years to come.

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