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K.S.Sivakumaran's Columns..
Karthigesu Sivathamby: Lankan Scholar with International Recognition!

by K.S Sivakumaran 

Prof.K.SivathambyWho is Karthigesu Sivathamby (1932)? Lankan intellectuals writing in Sinhala, Thamil and Enlish know him very well and respect him as an authority with multifaceted disciplines and a scholar applying the multi-disciplinary approach as originally proffered by the late K.Kailasapathy, another towering figure in the local academic and literary scene. It's not an exaggeration that both together shaped to a great extent the contemporary literary scene even at the expense of accommodating non-Marxist writing, even though belatedly.

Kailasapathy and Sivathamby were contemporaries in the University of Peradeniya in the mid 1950s. They studied in the English medium. While Kailasapathy did special degree in Thamil, Sivathamby's specialty was History. But eventually became a Thamil scholar besides being an expert on many other fields. Kailasapathy took up to journalism and literary criticism Sivathamby concentrated on the theatre and to some extent on cinema, translation, communication and the like. Both did their Ph.D from Burmingham University in the U.K. and studied under the Marxist scholar George Thomson. Both have written books and articles in English as well.

Last Sunday (Aug 28), a book was launched at the Kolumbu Thamil Sangam in Wellawatta. This book includes the series of interviews scholar Sivathamby had given to a literary monthly in Thamil called "Gnanam". "Ilakkiyamun Vaalkaiyum" (Literature and Life) was the title of the book. It was published by Thamilni Pathipakam in U.K. and edited by "Gnanam" editor T.Gnanasekeran. This 160 page book is priced at Rs 250/- and available at Poobalasingham Book Depot at 202,340 Sea street Colombo


Kailaspathy, Sivathamby, A.J.Canagaratna, Siddharthan Perinbanayagam were a few who knew their world literature, particularly English and
Greek literature. Therefore their horizons were wide and rich. They had the fortune of interacting with some Sinhala intellectuals like the late
Charles Abeysekera, A.J.Gunawardena, just to mention a few.

The Interview gives valuable information to the keen reader in understanding Thamil Literature in a larger context of updated world

In the similar fashion there was an earlier publication called "Sivathambiyin Naerkanalkal" (Sivathamby's Interviews) published in
Thamilnadu. I have not read that book as yet.

Gnanam's interviews were basically on Sivathamby's role as a Thamil literati and his life and thoughts. But Sivathamby couldn't be confined
to Thamil literature alone. Nevertheless, this book is very valuablesource book not only to understand the subject, but also the socio-cultural matrix within which he and Thamil literature

Sivathamby as both a Thamilian and Sri Lankan!

To understand Sivathamby at present we should read his book in English, a volume of 326 pages, "Being a Tamil and Sri Lankan", published by Aivaham at 2/7 Ram Gate Apartments, No 56,37th Lane, Colombo 06. This book is dedicated to the late A.M.A.Azeez and the late Charles Abeysekare. Journalist J.S.Tissanayagam has written a Preface.  Besides the Publisher's Note and the acknowledgement, an Introduction by Prof.N.Balakrishnan is also included. The author K.Sivathamby has written 'A Prolegomenon to these Introductory Essays"

The articles in the collection first appeared in an English weekly "The Northeastern Herald" edited by the late D.Sivaram and presently by J.S.Tissanayagam. The contemporary political and social scene in Sri Lanka during the period 2002 and maybe 2004 is focused in these essays. Before we find out what were the themes of these newspaper articles, let me copy from the blurb of the book to have a definite picture and career of Karthigesu Sivathamby, who hails from Karaveddy in northern Sri Lanka.

From the blurb!

"K.Sivathamby -Professor Emeritus, University of Jaffna (1978-1996), had taught at Vidoyadaya (Sri Jayawardenapura) (1965 -1978), Eastern
University of Sri Lanka (1997-98) and had done visiting lectures at the university of Colombo and Kelaniya.

He had been visiting Professor of Tamil at the Universities of Madras 1998), Upsalu 1992) at Institute of International Tamil Studies, Madras

He was Senior research Fellow/ visiting Fellow at the university of Cambridge (1983/84), Centre for historical studies, Jawaharlal Nehru
University (1982) and at Tamil University, Thanjavoor (1982).

His main areas of specializations are Social and literary History of the Tamils, Culture and communication among the Tamils, Tamil drama and Literary Criticism. 

He is the author of 40 books and monographs on Tamil Studies."

My comments on the ideas of the author is not warranted, but I think that the Sinhala intellectuals and the: unenlightened' extreme patriotic
forces among the Sinhalas should read this book if they could read in English. To understand the dilemma of a Lankan Thamilian who wants to be a Sri Lankan with his ethnic identity respected, the circumstances in which he is confined to live amidst majority supremacist hegemony should be understood.

Categories and Headings!

I shall now give you the main categories under which the articles have been grouped together. It would fairly be a good indicator of what this book is all about:

Ethnic Divide, The Peace Process, Tamil Theatre, Tamil Music and Tamil Cinema, writers, artistes and Intellectuals, Political Culture,
Education and Media.

The actual headings of the articles were:

Peace for the Tamils, Pro Peace Left: Vasu & Bahu, Peace back to pieces, Jaffna Public Library -Its resurrection, One  year of Peace - a second look, Women war-torn Environment, remembering the Bishop, Deadlock in peace Talks, Interim Administration, Bhikkus for Peace, No war is No Peace, Living in Two Worlds.

Sri Lankan  Tamil identity, Revisiting the Tracks of the Great Divide, Sinhala-Buddhist understanding of Tamils: communication Barriers,
Sinhala Perceptions of South Indian Dravidian Movement, Questionable Categorization in the Census, The Making of the Sri Lankan Tamil,
Buddhism in Sri Lanka and Tamilnadu, Politics and Identity of Malayaga Tamils, Colonialist Legacy and Ethnic Conflict, February 4: Its Meaning for Minorities, The Mahawamsa Perception, Prof.Karunatilleke's Tamil -Sinhala Dictionary- A contribution to Sinhala -Tamil Understanding, Sinhala Understanding of the Dravidian Movement, Sri Lankan Tamil Literary Works,  The term 'unitary': A Flawed Concept, Being a Sri Lankan Tamil, Opinion: Tamil Regionalism: Historical Causes and the Crocodile Tears, Remembering the Bandaranaike Legacy -all of it.

Writers and Artistes Meet in Jaffna, Place for Intellectuals, to Standup and be Counted, Sinhala and Tamil Artistes in support of Peace.

Tamil Medium School Education, Jaffna University, University reforms, education in War devastated Areas.

Tamil at SLBC, Sociology of Communication, Need for a Non-Partisan Mainstream media.

K.Pathmanathan- the Great Exponent of Nathaswaram in Jaffna Tradition, Annaviyar Chelliah - A veteran of Traditional Theatre, Tamil theatre in Grassroots Communication, Film Maker Mani Ratnam on Ethnic War, Street Theatre and Peactime Communication, Carnatic Music Maestro: Veeramani Iyer, Thai Pongal, Tamils and the DMK.

TNA and the Tamils, making a New Political Culture, JVP and its Transformation, Articulating the Tamil Point of View to the South and
masking sense of the Political Cross currents in Colombo.

The launch!

K.S.SivakumaranT.Gnanasekeran (a medical practitioner), Prof.S.Santhirasekeran (a solid educationist with global perspectives), K.Shanmugalingam (a sociologist and literary figure), A.Iqbal (currently the most sought after Marxist chronicler), Dr.K.Thurai Manoaran (an academic who keeps himself updated on contemporary writing) and Prof.K.Sivathamby expressed their ideas about Sivathamby. The function was chaired by N.Somakanthan (a creative writer and critic)

Contact: kssivan19@sltnet.lk

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