17th October 1999

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Fascinating story of a blind artiste


Books by local writers continue to hit the bookstands almost daily. Amongst them are a fair number of translations too giving Sinhala readers ample material.

"If you could see what I hear" is the extraordinary autobiography written by Tom Sullivan, a multi-talented blind artiste living in America. Born blind as a premature baby, Tom Sullivan is an accomplished musician, who was a brilliant student at Perkins School for the Blind and Providence Higher Education Institute. He continued his studies at graduate from the Harvard University as a psychologist. He excelled in sports too, including yachting and boxing. His story is one of courage and determination.

Sarath Samarasekera gives us the opportunity of enjoying Tom Sullivan's fascinating story through his translation, 'Mata esena de Obata dekiya heki nam'.

"It's terrible to be blind. Yet he loved life. The way he courageously faced the challenges of life aimed at him from the world that can see deserves praise. Many are the lessons to be learnt by those who are retarded in some form. The message he gives breaks your heart," Sarath Samarasekera says in his foreword.

This is Samarasekera's maiden effort at translation - a commendable one. A Sarasavi publication, the book is a neat print.

In the backdrop of the Civil War

'Niralaya' by G. W. Nandisena is the translation of 'The Vanquished' by Nobel Prize winner in Literature (1949) William Faulkner (1897-1962). He was an American author known for his vivid characterization and complex, convoluted style in novels and short stories. He was influenced by Charles Dickens, James Joyce and T. S. Eliot.

Faulkner's 'The Unvanquished' is set in the backdrop of the American Civil War in the 1860s. Nandisena captures his vivid description of a courageous mother fighting to survive.

This is Nandisena's fifth translation. He has also written an anthology of short stories ('Vijithakka'), a book of poems ('Maha Muduna') and several biographies. 'Niralaya' is a Thusita publication.

Moliere, the great comic dramatist

Pasan Kodikara selected a Russian author's work for translation. Mikhail Afanasievich Bulgakov (1891-1940) has been described as an author and playwright who blends realism and fantasy with great humour. The book selected for translation is the life story of Moliere, France's greatest comic dramatist written by Bulgakov as a novel in Russian.

This is rare - one creative person selecting another creative person's life story as the theme for a book. And then a translator selects it obviously because he is fascinated by the writing and wants to share it with others who cannot read the original - in this case, the Russian. Translator Kodikara describes the original work as one of the most distinguished by the author.

It was in 1931 that Bulgakov negotiated with a publisher to publish his work. In March 1933 he gave him the manuscript. The manuscript was rejected within a month on the basis that the hero is not a Marxist and that the book does not indicate which class of society was served by Molier's plays. Bulgakov refused to alter or amend his original work and so it was in cold storage until 1962.

Even in 1962, the book appeared with deletions. The entire book was published only in 1989.

Kodikara's translation is the unabridged version and has come out as a Sarasavi publication.


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