“Great literature is simply language charged with meaning to the utmost possible degree….”
Ezra pound- How to read
I remember, when I was in my childhood when people ask me, ‘Who is your favorite writer and what is the book you love the most’. Then the answer was simple. It was Martin Wickramasinghe and the book was Madol Duuwa.
The milestone of Modern Sinhala Literature
Martin Wickramasinghe, popularly known as “Koggala Pragnya” is considered as the milestone of the modern Sinhalese literature. Wickramasinghe was born in 29th May 1891 at the rural village Koggala Malalagama, near the city of Galle; southern Sri Lanka. He started his writings in 1903 with the small poetry book, Baaloopadeshaya. It was a simple book of some instructions for a good, healthy life written in the poetry form. His journey of literature has begun and continued till his death, 23rd ofJuly 1975. Hundreds of books including novels, short stories, scientific books, literature criticisms, books about the Buddhist philosophy, have been written by him during the decades of his literature life.
Wickramasinghe; the typical storyteller of the Sinhalese Novel
He is a good storyteller, an inspiring thinker, and a good philosopher as proved in his work, which is more than hundreds of books and thousands of paper articles. Though Wickramasinghe is considered in the academic crowd, as a good philosopher, he is most popular as the great novelist/ author/ writer of Sinhalese literature arena.
Out of the the numerous great books published by him in Sinhalese or in English, I have selected ten greatest and most popular novels by this inspirational writer. They are:
Ape Gama (1940)
Madol Duuwa (1947)
Upandaa Sita (1961)
Kaluwara Gedara (1963)
Bawa Tharanaya (1973)
Madol Duuwa (1947) – As the most popular book of Martin Wickramasinghe, it plays the role of the most abundant Sri Lankan novel. Upali Giniwelle and his servant friend Jinna play the main roles of this novel as notorious youngsters who explore their lives outrunning their parents. After make off from home Upali and Jinna find the isolated small island Madol Duuwa, situated in the middle of Koggala tank. They cultivate this land and gradually become standard businesspersons. The story of these two youngsters has been created by Wickramasinghe as an adventure which enchants the reader till the end. More than a half a century of prints have been published so far as it is highly accepted by the Sri Lankan litterateurs.
Rohini (1937) – is the book that firstly written out of these 10 books which carries a historical epic. The legendry affair between Athula and Rohini is the subject of this novel. Athula, a war hero from the Army of King Dutugemunu, falls in love with the young princess Rohini, whose father is a minister of King Elara. Princess Rohini is also proposed to her father’s diplomatic friend Mithra, from the same Elara’s party.Yet there is a romantic story flows through the novel Wickramasinghe tend to emphasis the critical political issues hidden behind as well. The novel is also recommended as the Sinhalese Literature fiction for the Junior School Certificate Examination in 1937.
Ape Gama (1940) – the typical soulful explanation of the rural life and the atmosphere is also one of the prime books written by Martin Wickramasinghe. When reading this book you will feel how smoothly he has described the every single experience of his village life. Even though this is mostly identified as a children’s book it entertains the other readers as well. I highly recommend this book for all kinds of readers, as they can enjoy it thwarting all barriers.
Gamperaliya (1944) – is the first book of Wickramasinghe’s most popular Trilogy (Tun Eduthu Nawakatha). Based on the rural feudalistic family of Muhandiram Kaisaaruwatte, this novel flows over three generations accomplishing writer’s needs of character development. The way that historical politics functions on the rural feudalistic families and the emergence of a new middle class society is drastically described in this novel wrapped in a dramatic story. Piyal the benchmark of this new social class gradually attacks this feudalistic society and the relationship between him and Nanda; the daughter of Kaisaaruwatte plays the transitional situation of this class struggle. Tissa; brother of Nanda, is the linking factor to the trilogy as he appears in each three novels.
Kaliyugaya (1957) – the second of the seriescan be identified as the best explanation ever appeared in explaining the social class transition during the post- colonization stage. Social uplifting of the newly formed social class consists of feudalistic Nanda and lower middle class Piyal with the presence of the money factor is indicated in this particular novel. Therefore it would be really interesting to you to understand what has really happened in the Sri Lankan context during the post- colonization period.
Yuganthaya (1949) – as the final part of the trilogy is the best book that shed light on the collapsing of this upper middle class Sri Lankan society and emergence of a new capitalistic society. Based on the social struggle between upper middle class Saviman Kabalana (Son- In- law of Piyal and Nanda) and the venture capitalist Wiharahena from Deniyaya this novel flows under numerous social disputes. This novel ends with the formation of modern political tradition which consists of English spoken, foreign educated capitalistic people who had the socialistic ideas, like Malin Kabalana. And also Yuganthaya explains the polarization of the human political and social interests based on their political ideology using the characters Malin Kabalana and Aravinda Wiharahena. If you are interested in Sri Lankan political transitions you should read this book with reference to the day to day political stereotypes.
Viragaya (1956) -is the novel that considered as one of the best novels that explain persons’ obscure characteristics ever written in Sri Lankan modern literature. Aravinda, Bathi and Sarojini are the main characters of the novel. In Viragaya, Wickramasinghe tries to explain their characteristics which are ambiguous, mystic and complicated. Aravinda is indisputably accepted as the typical Sri Lankan youth character that appears in a novel.
Upandaa Sita (1961) – Autobiography of late Martin Wickramasinghe is one of the other books that you should read. Even though it is a personal experience book, it is highly recommended as a masterpiece to the life style management. Experience from his village, through the carrier as a journalist and most importantly influence of own experience in his literature work is included in this biography. Therefore it is most similar to a Diary- novel such as La Nuste by Sean Paul Sarthe.
Kaluwara Gedara (1963) – If you are interested more in the social class struggle of Sri Lanka you might also need to read Kaluwara Gedara. Kaluwara Gedara is too based on a rural family and its development during decades with the presence of social, cultural, political and economic circumstances. As in many works of Martin Wickramasinghe, this book is also keen in explaining the social status of a certain period of the Post- colonization period, as one of the heavy transitional period that appeared in Sri Lankan social history.
Bawa Tharanaya (1973) – is one of the most controversial novels which caused a series of heavy arguments between scholarly traditions. It is mainly based on the life of Prince Siddhartha, before and after of renunciation of household life. Considering Lord Buddha as a human being that proven higher ideological and philosophical values, Wickramasinghe tends to create his own explanation about the Buddhist culture. Therefore this novel has been confronted numerous arguments and stigmatizations by the conventional Buddhist society. Yet it is argued by some of the scholars, it is undoubtedly accepted by the readers as one of the practical readings about the Buddhist concepts.
You may also like to read my other post on Greatest Sri Lankan Books (Novels) of all time
Achinthya Bandara is a final year B.A. Sinhala Special degree undergraduate of University of Colombo.
He also studied in La Trobe University in Victoria, Australia.
මාර්ටින් වික්රමසිංහ සූරින්ගේ කෘතිි
බාලෝපදේශය – 1903| ගලිවරායනය -1932 | රජවෙන්නට ගිය මහත්තයා-1932 | දඩු මොණරය -1932
කුරුමිණි සත්තු -1929 | කුරැකුහුඹු සත්තු-1930 | වෙස් මාරු කරන සත්තු-1931 | මුහුදු වෙරළ-1932
සත්ව ලෝකය-1936 | විද්යා විනෝද කතා-1957
ලීලා -1914 | සෝමා-1920 | අයිරංගිනි-1923
සීතා-1923 | මිරිගු දිය-1925 | උන්මාද චිත්ර 1925
රෝහිණී-1929 | ගම්පෙරළිය-1944 | මඩොල් දුව-1947
යුගාන්තය -1949 | විරාගය-1956 | කලි යුගය-1957
කරුවල ගෙදර-1963 | බවතරනය-1973 | කෙටි කතා සංග්රහය
ගැ හැණියක්-1924 | කතා-1936 | මාර ය්ද්ධය-1946
අපේ විත්ති-1947 | මගේ කතාව-1949 | වහල්ලු -1955
ජිවිතය ඇසුරින් ලියු කතා
අපේගම 1940 | කළුනික සෙවිම 1950 | උපන්දා සිට-1961
W.A.දිනේෂ්, හ/දෙබරවැව ජාතික පාසල (From danuma.lk website)