Book review:A poignant and delightful novel | Sunday Observer

Book review:A poignant and delightful novel

3 November, 2019

‘Bala Kaley Mithuro’
Author: Senaratne Weerasinghe
Prabha Publishers, Veyangoda
Pages: 204
Price: Rs 450

Senaratne Weerasinghe’s latest book ‘Bala Kaley Mithuro’ is the authentic Sinhala translation of William Saroyan’s popular novel ‘The Human Comedy.’ The novel portrays wonderfully how life is a battle for young and old alike and the in-between, for all of us. For instance, the imaginary characters in the novel are each fighting different battles.

The four-year-old youngest child is caught in a trap. While the threat of losing a father and a brother is looming, he is confused by the general state of the world around him.

The elderly telegrapher cannot bear the consequences of the war in his home town. All of them do not understand the incomprehensibility of life. In the process some characters die, others falter, but quite a few remain strong. All this is close to real life. Apart from the imaginary characters, we are also fighting battles in our attempt to make sense of the craziness of the world we live in. As we grow old we come to realize that the world is not understandable. That is the human comedy William Saroyan is dealing with.

The translator too seems to have understood the human predicament that is close to a comedy. ‘The Human Comedy’ was the first novel written by Saroyan who was a school dropout. Like the protagonist in the novel - Homer Macauley - he too worked as a telegraph messenger. Fourteen-year-old Homer gathers many experiences while working as a telegraph messenger. Some of them relate to actual events in the author’s life.

Young Homer had to do a job because his father had died and his elder brother was serving in the Army. Circumstances force him to become a surrogate father to his younger brother Ulysses and the provider for his family. As a telegraph messenger, Homer meets all sorts of people and visits a variety of homes to deliver telegrams.

Apart from Homer, the most engaging characters in the novel are Mr Grogan, the old rummy telegraph operator; Spangler, the telegraph office manager; Homer’s mother, Kate Macauley; Miss Hicks, Homer’s teacher; and Ulysses, his younger brother. All of them and a few others such as Marcus, Homer’s elder brother, are representatives of the vintage Saroyan’s characters who share a simple faith, love for life and inherent goodness. Homer is determined to become the fastest telegraph messenger in the West, but he finds himself caught between reality and illusion. When he delivers messages of wartime deaths, love, and money he comes face to face with human emotions at their most naked and raw.

The following extracts from the novel will confirm that human life is a real comedy:

· “You must not be unkind especially when it happens that you’re right.”

· “You must remember always to give, of everything you have.

You must give foolishly even. You must be extravagant.

You must give to all who come into your life. Then nothing and no one shall have power to cheat you of anything, for if you give to a thief, he cannot steal from you, and he himself is then no longer a thief. And the more you give, the more you will have to give.”

· “Everything is changed for you. But it is still the same, too. The loneliness you feel has come to you because you are no longer a child. But the world has always been full of that loneliness.” I found ‘Bala Kale Mithuro’ as a gentle, poignant and delightful novel.


[email protected]