K.S.Sivakumaran : Critic with Creative Talents
By Dr (Mrs) Subathini Ramesh
(Head Department of Linguistics and English, University of Jaffna, Sri
is an appreciation of the contributions made by K S Sivakumaran as he has
entered his 70s without much not been recorded in English, although he has
written about all Lankans without any bias. I met him casually at a seminar in
Peradeniya where the subject of Translations was discussed. Subsequently I met
him for a few days at a seminar in Colombo organized by the Kamban Kalagam. On
that occasion he gave me some of his books in Tamil and asked me to review them
in English as many could not review books in Tamil. It took me sometime to read
all his works available in Tamil and research on his style of writing.
I understand that two of his books are in English -Tamil Writing in Sri Lanka
and Aspects of Culture in Sri Lanka: Le Roy Robinson in
conversation with� K S Sivakumaran.
I have the pleasure in writing this piece for the benefit of readers in English.
Art, literature and social practices are fields where dissemination of positive
thinking could produce profitable results. Such dissemination is
possible through the relentless efforts of persons like K.S. Sivakumaran, who
never tires of working for the promotion of inter-communication
between readers belonging to different language groups through his writings.
One of the most respected Sri Lankan men of letters, Sivakumaran has succeeded
in almost �every field of literature. The bilingual writer
(English & Tamil) has been a rare phenomenon in �Sri Lankan Culture.
As far as I know; there have been only few, who have written creatively in both
English and Tamil..
He began writing short stories in his mother tongue Tamil and later they were
translated by him in English. Now he writes both in Tamil and
English -poems and short stories.
He is praised for his extraordinary ability to create moods and atmospheres, his
unforgettable images, the music of his language and his
awareness of his human conditions.
( The language is naturalized sufficiently to achieve a form of transparency.
Language is often molded to achieve a balance between the literary and the oral.
And yet the pieces, poetry, prose or a
combination of both,
invoke a whole discourse, a way of life in order to communicate with the reader.
Genre is of little importance to the author as he experiments
with structure and language to expression to the multiplicity of a beleaguered
and resilient life.)
The nuances of a way of life and a culture are the backdrop of his writing and
that explains the texture of Sivakumaran�s insightful work. The
two collections of short stories (Irumai & Sivakumaran�s Stories) published by
him clearly portrayed him as a gifted writer. His writings convey not only facts
but also feelings because he imaginatively projects himself and his readers into
the experience of each moment.
The reading public in Sri Lanka is not aware that there are several Sri Lankan
Tamil writers who have used English for create purposes.
Sivakumaran's literary predecessors are late K.Kailasapathy, A J Canagaratna and
Alagu Subramaniam , C V Velupillai to name just a few. But there is a
significant contrast between Sivakumaran and his predecessors. The latter were
educated in the English medium during the British rule. So was Sivakumaran� but
he is a product of the post
independence era� (1960s) when
the mother tongue was the medium of
education. All the greater is the credit due to him for using English as a
medium for creative expression.
K.S.Sivakumaran is one of the most versatile writers of his generation as a
translator, teacher, essayist, short story writer, columnist, journalist,
broadcaster and highly respected literary critic. In whatever he did, however
the creator in him dominated and consequently in every area of his
interest whether it is short story writing or criticism or cinema, he left
behind a new order, a new system and an indelible mark of his natural
predilections and potential for creative contributions. His entries on
contemporary Sri Lankan Tamil literature are found in two International
Encyclopedias of Literature.
Another welcoming feature in Sivakumaran�s writing is that he writes not only on
the theories of literary criticism, the appreciation of literary
personalities, film reviews, creative writing of Lankan writers in Tamil and the
development of Tamil fiction, poetry and literary criticism but also on science,
philosophy and technology. The heterogeneous nature of his articles on various
topics clearly show his versatility and
resourcefulness, which he got through his constant convergence with English and
Sivakumaran is best known, even a pioneer in the western style of column writing
both in English and Tamil.Whatever the title he chooses, he gives meticulous
treatment of his topics with precision. All his article are descriptive,
analytical and informative on different facets of literary scene. His style of
writing is lucid and precise. He also has launched a programme of collecting
these writings and bringing them out as books and booklets. The series is at
once edifying, informative for students of literature and those who wish to gain
access to the field of writing and higher education
He also acknowledges his vital interest in translation. He had translated
literary texts including short stories into English and vice versa. He had
worked for the defunct Local Government Service Commission as a Tamil
Sivakumaran had embarked on what was to become his major phase producing
criticism on various topics, now considered to be among the
greatest Tamil Sri Lankan literary criticism of the 20th century. His Tamil
books on criticism such as Traditional Criticism and Sri Lankan Tamil
Literature, Some Sri Lankan Tamil fictions, Criticism-recent ccollection of some
Sri Lankan short stories, Collection of Sri Lankan Short Story --A Criticism,
Sri Lankan Literature-Introduction of Books, Critical Views and Aesthetic
Literary Criticism give very valuable materials for the readers who are
interested in modern Tamil Sri Lankan Literature.
He did make a substantial contribution to explore� Cinema and film review for
the Tamil readers of Sri Lanka.He had written a book named
The Moving Images on the aesthetics and grammar of cinema with guidelines to
approaches of film criticism. In this book Sivakumaran not only compares the
kinds of professional filming techniques to the current Tamil films and the
importance of photography but also the discovery of
camera and the history of film making. His other book in Tamil is titled Cinama
Cinama :A World Passage
He is an artist of global dimensions and creator of� calibre. Sivakumaran was a
Chairman of the Tamil Drama Panel and a member of the Literary Panels in English
and Tamil of the Arts Council of Sri Lanka. He was also a member of the Preview
Committee of selecting English films for the National Film Corporation and a
member of selecting TV presenters and news readers for the Tamil Channel of
Rupavahini. Presently he is a member of the Public Performances Board under the
Ministry of Culture..
Sivakumaran had worked for the SLBC� (Sri lanka Broadcasting Corpration) Tamil
Service as a Relief Presenter, News Reader and News Editor (1966- 1980) and� now
he is one of the Relief Hosts for the English Service of the SLBC..
This outstanding personality also proved himself as a successful teacher of
English and English Literature. He had taught in The Maldives,
Oman, Sri Lanka and in US. During his services in various capacities and after
retirement he has been working as a freelance journalist. He is
a freelance media critic for most of the English and Tamil newspapers in Lanka.
In the 1980s he was the Deputy Features Editor of The Island (Sunday and Daily)
and� also edited the 'Culture Page. which was voted as the
best feature by the papers readers.He was also the Associate Editor of the
Virakesari for a short time( 1990s) and also the pioneer editor of the
Tamil weekly Navamani (latter part of the 1990s). He was the Tamil News Duty
Editor of the SLBC (1970s) In short K.S.Sivakumaran played and even now is
playing a vital role in literary, cultural and media scene of Sri Lanka.To the
readers of Tamil stories Sivakumaran gives a new sense sophistication and
refinement, to the Sri Lankan literary criticism, a new approach and view, to
journalism, a new language,format and method of expression, to the Tamil and
English languages, a new form, and new life and above all to the readers of
North and South of Sri Lanka,he helps to provide a new channel of communication.
Really K.S.Sivakumaran is a great treasure to the Sri Lankan literary world.