K.S. Sivakumaran’s latest publication Gleanings: A Lankan’s Views as a Columnist offers rare insights into Sri Lankan writing, arts and culture.
Gleanings: A Lankan’s Views as a Columnist is the latest in a series of books by K. S. Sivakumaran, offering insights into Sri Lankan writing, arts and culture.
These books contain articles and columns he wrote for English newspapers from the 1980s onwards.
The value of Sivakumaran’s writing lies in the way he brings to his readers a very diverse gallery of writers, poets, academics, journalists, book editors, musicians, film actors and directors who otherwise may remain obscure in their relative fields.
Over the years, he has become the principal presenter of Tamil culture in print form to English medium readers in Sri Lanka. But he has an aversion to being typecast on an ethnic basis. Hence, his writing has always encompassed culture in the broadest possible sense, highlighting Sinhalese personalities as well as Indians, making his writing very cosmopolitan.
“Gleanings” has several articles on poetry and poets, including Jean Arasanayagam, Kamala Wijeratne and Yasmine Gunaratne. Reggie Siriwardena and his now largely forgotten literary work including the novel “The Lost Lenore” are discussed at some length. As ours has become society structured on SMS and tweets and what is current, even the best of yesterday’s literary efforts disappear into archives to be forgotten. Author Sivakumaran pays homage to these significant literary figures from the past and resurrects them to some extent via his research and writing.
"The value of Sivakumaran’s writing lies in the way he brings to his readers a very diverse gallery of writers, poets, academics, journalists, book editors, musicians, film actors and directors who otherwise may remain obscure in their relative fields"
But his reach goes beyond the better-known figures to bring up the relatively obscure, people known within their spheres but away from the public eye. Thus, he quotes from a speech made by Carmen Wickremasinghe, an academic from the University of Peradeniya, about the legendary librarian and bibliophile H. A. I. Gunathilake.
The latter himself, though a legend and giant in literary circles decades ago, would be a stranger to a new generation of newspaper readers. This is why resurrecting such figures and their historiesm in contemporary writing is so important.
Tthe passages written about Bill McAlpine, a British Council representative, who settled down in Colombo and wrote poetry, is further proof of the author’s cosmopolitan worldview.
Moving to India, he mentions the 8th Volume (2017-18) of a Transnational journal of literature, language and culture studies published in Uttar Pradesh, India, offering articles on subjects such as culture and literature, the second coming of fiction in English, Indian drama in English, feminism in India, theoretical formulations and the short story in theory and practice.
The editor, Dr Neeru Tandon offers an essay on translation and its methods which would be very useful to translators of creative writing. The author goes on to express his regrets about the crisis of translation that exists in Sri Lanka; while a number of foreign books, mainly fiction, get translated each year, Sinhala to Tamil and Tamil to Sinhala translations are scarce.
He introduces two Sri Lankan Tamil poets, now living in the West – Jasmin Kennedy (Nakkeeran Mahal) and Malini Maala, and Arul Subramanium who live in Trincomalee who explores the mindset of Tamil youth from the east who finds work in Colombo and must face the inevitable cross-cultural intricacies.