Books Entertaining and Elucidating!
many books are with me waiting for my perusal, understanding, enjoyment
and comments. Pressure of work and lack of time prevent fast reading and
it has become obligatory to read every book, not only in English but also
in Thamil to be included as segments in my literary columns as reviews.
However, yours truly tries his best to do justice to the authors who send
these books for some notices in my columns. Here
are some notes on some of the books received:
Ashok Ferrey (that's a pseudonym) wrote a very funny but realistic
fiction recently, released by Perera-Hussein Publishing House in Colombo. It's a highly entertaining book of well-written short stories that introduce slices of life both within and outside the country. The element of humour and
occasional satire and an enrapturing style of writing behold the reader
until the reader has finished the last page. There are 18 stories in the
210 page book, attractively produced. Understandably the book has got
into a third edition. It's a phenomenal success for a Lankan writer,
even though academic critics might have reservations on the literary
merit of the book. But it must be remembered that this book was short
listed for the Graetian Prize in 2002. What was fascinating for me was
the writer's fine style that also brings to the uninitiated reader the
Yummy lifestyle in the West, Africa, Southeast Asia and other places. It
was new revelations and explorations for me. Lankans in foreign climes
behave in peculiar ways and this is one of the character portrayals by
I must say that I liked all
the stories in this collection. And a few
are crafted well. I do not wish to analyse all the stories individually
for it will spoil your own enjoyment and taste. I think that Ashok has
succeeded considerably in combining magazine writing short story
techniques and literary considerations. The book deserves serious notice
by the academic critics. This book reminds me of an English academic cum
comic writer of the 1960s, which brought in the Kitchen sink Drama and
As the publishers' blurb rightly
says the book includes 'provocative
stories about life, love and human relationships'. They also say that
'these stories in this extraordinary debut collection accurately
chronicle the emotional journeys of characters seeking something beyond
the barriers of nations and generations.'
The reader is not briefed
of the profile of the reader except some anti-
sentiments about him. Despite that Ashok Ferrey emerges as a successful
man who understands life.
Honouring Martin Quere, o.m.i.
Gerard Robuchon, a Frenchman in charge of the Alliance François in
Yaalpaanam with assistance from Philippe Fabry edited a book in 2002
published by Viator Publications (Pvt)Ltd, Blue Lagoon, Talahena,
Negombo. The book was on a catholic priest by name Martin Quere. Who is
he? He has lived in Sri Lanka for more than 50 years. He is a linguist
and a reader of good literature. Above all he is a historian of
religion, of the Portuguese period in Sri Lanka, of the French battles
Gerard Robuchon has compiled
this book with excellent academic and
journalistic writing of outstanding Lankans.
Would you like to know the
equivalent in other European languages of the
English term Felicitation Volume? Well, these are the words: Liber
Amicorum (Latin), Melanges (French), Fetschrift (German). Thanks to
Gerard Robuchon the editor of this volume. His writing in English is
fascinating because it is not a formal style and sounds French-English
Consider this long paragraph:
"This book, we now dedicate it to Father martin Quere, a friend to so
many of us as well as a man of sincere conviction who devoted the past
half century to Sri Lanka, by living here in fact in the whole period of
the Independence, listening to the various voices of the people from al
over the island, unfailingly assisting those in dire need, and moreover
teaching at Aquinas first, then at the Seminary (Ampitiya), without
forgetting his assiduous research as a historian."
This introduces the subject
of GR's book. The editor gives further
information in his characteristic style:
"We will remember how he undertook
his second doctorate in his sixties,
this time in a Sri Lankan university, not sparing himself a critical
repositioning which is the fundamental necessity in order to renew upon
assuming the approach towards the Other"
GR has been teaching French
at the Kelaniya University for sometime and
he lives in our country for a long period. An added advantage is that he
knows Sinhala and Thamil. He could speak read and write in Thamil for
sure. In fact, he wrote a letter to me recently in Thamil.
Fr.Quere's (1924- ) interests
include history, literature, research,
religions, naval history, Thirukoanamalai, the French presence in Sri
Lanka, languages and linguistics and cultural diversity in the island.
The book has Reminiscences
by Fr.Martin Quere and also a bibliography of
his works. Some of these contributions are both in French and English.
Contributors to this volume
are in alphabetical order: Sithy
Amarasingam, Marc Amarasinghe, Jean Arasanayagam, Parvathi Arasanayagam,
Thiagarajah Arasanyagam, Osmund Bopearachchi, Delorine Brohier, Somasiri
Devendra, Lorna Dewarajah, C.B.Dissanayake, Philippe Fabry, Asghley
Halpe, Thwfeek Hassan, Stanley Kirinde, Carl Muller, Vito Periniola s.j,
Martin Quere o.m.i. Anne Ranasinghe, Gerard Robuchon, Bruno Saint Girons, Clifford Speck, Shirley Wijesinghe, and Samantha de S. Wijeyratne.
Among the scholarly articles
and among the other forms of essays, I
first read the following and educated myself:
Thamil Literature in Thirukonamalai
District - an historical overview by
Sithy Amarasingam; Archaeological evidence on cultural and commercial
relationship between ancient Sri Lanka and South India by Osmund
Bopearachchi; Thirukoanamalai - a geological curiosity by
.B.Dissanayake; and One of the most venerable rots of the language - the
root "kal" of Proto-Dravidian type in French Linguistic Prehistory by
The book also some details
about the contributors a map of Sri Lanka.
You will find the book useful to see things in a wider perspective.
Thamil literature in Thirukoanamalai
I am grateful to GR for translating into English an article in Thamil
written by Sithy Amarasingam, because non-Thamil readers would be
informed of what is happening in local Thamil cultural scene via
English. And further, I cannot cover the regional achievements in the
country all the time as I live in the metropolis of Colombo.
Sithy Amarasingam in his essay
divides the history of Thamil Literature
in the district as The Pandit's Period, The Saivte Lineage,
Akilasapillai's Time 1853-1910), the short stories as a genre and the
magazines in Thirkoanamalai. Explanatory notes on several aspects of the
essay are also given.