Book reviewS: Absorbing reading for younger readers | Sunday Observer

Book reviewS: Absorbing reading for younger readers

Book: Minisa Sandatagiya Katawa
(Story of Man’s Journey to the moon)
Author: Upali Jayasinghe
Publishers: Sarasavi
Price: Rs. 1,800

In the first instance, the sight itself of this massive Sinhala classic on ‘Moon Landing’, will overwhelm you with astonishment. Its detail is astounding. The illustrative matter is exceptionally rare. The style of writing makes for easy reading. The division of segments gives logicality to the content. The total book is the outcome of a praiseworthy human effort.

Before I enter into a review of this book, I am keen to dwell on a few peripheral issues, that would be intriguing, in the extreme. Fifty years ago, the two astronauts who landed on the moon were, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin. There is a Sinhala Literary Classic titled 550 Jataka Stories (Birth Tales).

The 489th of this series is named Matanga tale. In this story, a Rishi of great austerity, comes to Earth, from the moon. His name is Matanga. Let us look at the name – Matanga. Here Mata is ‘Strong.’ Anga impllies ‘Arm’ put the two parts together -’ Armstrong.’ Isn’t that surprisingly intriguing?

There is yet another aspect of this moon landing. The second Astronaut was Edwin Aldrin. When I come upon this name, I experience a keen thrill. Of billions of names on earth, the second person who landed on the moon, was Edwin Aldrin. As Edwin Ariyadasa (EA) I cannot help but be deeply moved by this occurrence. I am quite sure you will understand.

With that, let us focus our attention on the matter at hand, researcher Upali Jayasinghe’s comprehensive profiling of the moon landing.

Scientific Engineer Upali Jayasinghe, who adroitly faces the daunting challenge of chronicling the unique human event of Man landing on the moon, is multi faceted in his academic qualifications.

A few pages into his Research Tome, would fully convince you that, Author Upali Jayasinghe is amply and adequately equipped to present the story of this unprecedented human adventure, to Sri Lankan readers.

When this epic journey took place, way back in 1969, the author Upali Jayasinghe, was a mere eight-year old, of third-grade level.

The enthusiasm generated by the moon landing adventure, brought about a total change in the child Upali Jayasinghe’s personality. He began his own lunar trek, studying the implications of the original moon landing. To my mind, what is profoundly admirable about the effort of the author, is his unrelenting preoccupation, with the need to make the reader totally aware of all the details relating to the moon landing project.

Author Upali Jayasinghe, presents his Thesis, in Three Parts. The first part is titled ‘The early Beginnings.’

Objectively viewed, I am of the opinion, that no other local writer, has made such an elaborate introduction of the moon to the people of this country.

In various other sources - books, research publications, articles, etc. these descriptive facts may be found. But, author Upali Jayasinghe has brought all that dispersed material into one place, performing a service that all readers – especially, the young ones would be totally grateful for implying the intimate attitude people have for the moon, the author characterises the moon as ‘My moon’.

The Author is motivated by a didactic spirit. He is keen that his readers should become familiar with all aspects of this celestial object.

He has a special area in his work, to record references in literary works to the moon. In this encyclopedic work on the moon, Author Upali Jayasinghe provides a record of international romantic works relating to the moon. An instance is his reference to Jules Verne’s science fiction work, with a prophetic insight - From the Earth to the Moon.

The author puts together all the specific characteristics of the moon not in the style of a learned classification but as an alluring story.

The First Part of the book consists of eight chapters, which smoothly merge into the events that brought about the initial moon – landing of July 1959. This world-shattering event was the outcome of the epoch-making contest between the two major powers, the US and Russia.

The first round of the contest seemed to yield an obvious advantage to the Soviets. They lofted a satellite, which took an astronaut into Earth Orbit.

Challenged by this high Soviet victory, the US became active. This earnestness was reflected by a determined statement made by President Kennedy, when he spoke to the Congress and the nation on May 25, 1961: “I believe that this nation should commit itself, to achieving the goal before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon, and returning him safely to Earth.

No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important in the long-range exploration of space and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish.”

These stirring words of President Kennedy brought into being the largest assembly of experts, in human history.

The pre-history of man’s landing on the moon, is replete with a vast array of unforgettable episodes. The Soviets sent up the dog Laika. In April 1961, the Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin, became the first man to orbit the Earth in a satellite.

On January 31, 1961, the US sent a Chimpanzee named Ham into space. After that space tour, Ham was retired and became a favourite pet of US space personnel. In close scrutiny, Upali Jayasinghe’s ‘facts and figures’ filled moon work is a kind of timely text-book, for Sri Lankan readers. Upali Jayasinghe’s creation exudes an unmistakable futuristic implication.

The next generation of young people in most parts of the world would invariably be space-oriented. Mankind, as a whole will be profoundly pre-occupied with moon colonies and human settlements in Mars.

Upali Jayasinghe has created a deep interest in space matters, with his moon landing classic. This work is quite likely to be absorbing reading for the younger readers. What surprises me, no end is the very evident, unrelenting commitment of the author. The kind of illustrative matter he utilizes to support his text can come, in most instances, from museums and special collections. He adds an appendix, for those who esteem exotic formulas. There is hardly any detail that Upali Jayasinghe misses. His cover photograph depicting an astronaut landing on the moon, sets the tone of the total work.

My strong advice to the reader of author Upali Jayasinghe’s treatise, is, to read it through with sustained attention.

You would have by the end of that reading effort, acquired a store of knowledge that would make your own mind a comprehensive encyclopaedia of all that matters about the moon and the background of that heroic human trek to the moon.

Over and above that, the present book will make any enthusiast of literature appreciate how a writer with a conscience commits himself, body and soul to create a complex literary product of such excellence, as this.