BOOK REVIEW: Forensic medicine for everybody | Sunday Observer

BOOK REVIEW: Forensic medicine for everybody

6 October, 2019

Sri Lankan Tamil Literature and Culture
Author: K.S. Sivakumaran
Kumaran Book House, Colombo
Price: Rs 950

K.S. Sivakumaran’s latest book Sri Lankan Tamil Literature and Culture is a combined edition of two previously published books. They are Tamil Writing in Sri Lanka (1974) and Le Roy Robinson in Conversation with K.S. Sivakumaran on aspects of Culture in Sri Lanka (1982). These books are no longer available.

Part I of the book deals with the Sri Lankan Tamil literary history, reviews of novels, short stories, poetry, and criticism. The author also discusses major trends in contemporary writing in Tamil in Sri Lanka, towards Sinhala – Tamil understanding and Part II is on aspects of Tamil culture in Sri Lanka.

Sivakumaran has made a laudable attempt to trace the evolution of Tamil literature in Sri Lanka. He is perhaps one of the most qualified authors to deal with such a wide subject. Most of the Tamil scholars who are partners of the development of Tamil literature seem to be more preoccupied with their creative endeavours than documenting the evolution of Tamil literature in Sri Lanka. As a senior journalist and author, Sivakumaran has worked on the editorial staff of Thinakaran where he had close links with Tamil literary giants. He had worked for The Island as its Culture Page Editor and Associate Features Editor in the Daily News earlier.

First Tamil novel

According to the author, Rajam Iyer of South India wrote the first novel in Tamil way back in 1893. Trincomalee produced the second Tamil novelist in 1895. He was T. Saravanamuttu Pillai who wrote Mohanangi. In 1994 S. In 1924 S. Sellammal wrote Rasadurai becoming the first woman novelist in Sri Lanka. Most novels written in Tamil were either adaptations or translations.

Major trends

The book consists of reviews on the novels written by S. Ganeshalingam, Ilankeeran and A. Balamanoharan. It also deals with the Indian connection. Thereafter, the author discusses Tamil short stories written by Velli Pathasaram, a collection of nine short stories titled Eelathu Parisuk Kathaiyal and another collection of nine short stories titled Pottik Kathaikal. Sivakumaran also comments on Yoganathan Kathaikal, Thoni, Vee, Naan Sahamattaen, Puthuyugam Pirakirathu and Kadavularum Manitharum.

Under the heading ‘poetry’ the author comments on Eli Koodu, Akkini Pookal, Veedum Veliyum and Manikkai. The comments are followed by a brief note on criticism focusing on the Kailasapathy’s book on Tamil novels, Sivathamby’s work on short story, and Ilakkiyamum Thiranaivum.

Readers will find the chapter on ‘Major trends in contemporary writing in Tamil in Sri Lanka’ quite interesting. This is followed by a chapter on ‘Towards Sinhala – Tamil understanding.’ The author says there is a conscious effort on the part of young Tamil writers to understand what is taking place in the Sinhala literary world, but Sinhala readers do not make an attempt to read Tamil literature. A few Sinhala short stories translated into Tamil had only a few Tamil speaking characters. But there is hardly any short story written in Sinhala portraying Tamil culture.

Part II of the book is devoted to an interview the author had with Le Roy Robinson of the Faculty of Economics, University of Nagasaki, Japan. Sivakumaran has titled it as “Aspects of culture in Sri Lanka.” In the course of the lengthy interview, the interviewer asks Sivakumaran whether there are translations of Sinhala and Tamil books. The interviewee says, “A few Tamil works have been translated into Sinhala and English but there are more translations of Sinhala books into Tamil.”

The interview covers the entire gamut of literature, ethnic problem, cultural divide, and social mores. It should be read and understood correctly by those who wish to establish ethnic harmony between the Sinhala and Tamil communities.

Sri Lankan Tamil Literature and Culture is a silent testimony to Sivakumaran’s wide knowledge and undiminished interest in Sinhala and Tamil languages and culture.

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