“I can read at anytime”– Palitha Silva | Sunday Observer

“I can read at anytime”– Palitha Silva

6 September, 2020

Palitha Silva is a famous actor, script writer, novelist and bookworm. As a novelist he wrote two books and as a script writer he launched many scripts. Today, he joins Youth Observer to discuss his reading habits and share his views on books and the current readership in the society.

Excerpts from the interview:

Q: What is your favourite book?

A: There are many books I like, but one book that made a great impression on me, is Wuthering Heights, by Emily Brontë.

Q: Why do you like it?

A: The book has its Ying – Yang (Chinese) quality which has been happiness and sorrow, cruelty and harmony in balance. And the book was written in a cinematic style through which we can see the images very sharply. I like these features as I am also an actor. And then the book challenges Victorian ideas about religion, morality, class and a woman’s place in society.

Q: How would you describe the book?

A: This novel was published in 1847 in England as an English novel. Though it was written by Emily Brontë, it was first published under her pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’. It was written between October 1845 and June 1846. There were three members in the Brontë family. The eldest was Emily Brontë. The other two were Anne Brontë and t Charlotte Brontë respectively. Emily wrote Wuthering Heights while Anne wrote Agnes Grey and Charlette wrote Jane Eyre. Because of Emily’s premature death, Charlotte edited a posthumous second edition of the book in 1850 and now it is considered as a classic in English literature and one of the 100 best books in world literature.

Q: What is the relevance of a 19th century novel to present society?

A: First, I’ll tell you the synopsis of the novel. In 1801, Lockwood, the new tenant at Thrushcross Grange in Yorkshire, pays a visit to his landlord, Heathcliff, at his remote moorland farmhouse, Wuthering Heights.

There he meets a reserved young woman (later identified as Cathy Linton); Joseph, a cantankerous servant; and Hareton, an uneducated young man who speaks like a servant. Everyone is sullen and inhospitable. Snowed in for the night, he reads some diary entries of a former inhabitant of his room, Catherine Earnshaw, and has a nightmare in which a ghostly Catherine begs to enter through the window. Woken by Lockwood, Heathcliff is troubled. Lockwood’s housekeeper Ellen (Nelly) Dean tells him the story of the strange family. Wuthering Heights is this Nelly’s and other characters’ story. The story ends with the present day story t of those characters. Wuthering Heights is associated with Heathcliff who represents the savage forces in human beings which civilisation vainly attempts to eliminate. So, it is no difference to present day society and the other characters also deal with current issues.

Q: Is there any narrative techniques in the book?

A: Most of the novel is the story told by housekeeper Nelly Dean to Lockwood, though the novel uses several narrators (in fact, five or six) to place the story in perspective, or in a variety of perspectives. Emily Brontë uses this frame story technique to narrate most of the story. Thus, for example, Lockwood, the first narrator of the story, tells the story of Nelly, who herself tells the story of another character.

Q: How did you find this book to read?

A: As a rule I go to bookshops and book fairs. When I went to a bookshop in Colombo, I saw this book on a shelf and bought it.

Q: How do you select a book?

A: I read book reviews in newspapers. Therefore, I learn about new books before most of the readers. And I also read the synopses of books on their back covers, when I visit a bookshop. So, it is not difficult for me to select a good book.

Q: D o you use libraries?

A: Yes, definitely. I got the memberships of the Colombo Public library, the British Council library, the Nugegoda Public library and the Mount Lavinia library among others. I used to go to more than ten libraries. During the 1980’s, the whole country was terror stricken, and only the libraries were open. At that time I used libraries very much.

Q: Who are your favourite authors?

A: My favourite author is J.M. Coetzy from South Africa. I am totally impressed by his books. However, I don’t have literary divisions. I like all kinds of good literature.

Q: What are your reading habits?

A: I can read anywhere and at anytime, and I don’t have routines for reading. If I have the time, I read. Sometimes, I read from morning to night, or from night to dawn. If I am absorbed in a novel, I don’t bother about my day to day needs.

Q: Are you a speedy reader?

A: Yes. I am a speedy reader. I can read a lot for a day. And I can read six or seven books simultaneously.

Q: Which is more interesting, reading or writing?

A: I am more interested in writing, because writing is in a way entering another world. There you meet people that you can never meet in real life and there you gain knowledge and wisdom too.

Q: How do you feel when you read a touching novel?

A: I live with it for a long time. And the characters linger in me. Some novels haunt me.

Q: What is your opinion about Sinhala literature?

A: We have very good Sinhala literature and very good writers. I like Martin Wickramasinghe, J.B. Senanayake and Simon Nawagatthegama. Sarachchandra and Gunadasa Amarasekara are also good writers but I don’t consider them as serious writers, now I think of them very differently. And we cannot ignore the Sinhala, traditional, classical literature too. For instance books of prose such as Buthsarana, Amawathura, Pujaawaliya, Saddharma Rathnawaliya and books of verse such as as Gutthilaya, Selalihina Sandashaya, Kav Silumina are very high quality literary books.

Q: What do you think about the present readership in society?

A: Definitely, it has decreased very much. In our youth, we were patronised libraries, but now youth are more interested in mobile phones and social media. If someone reads today, he is a reader of Ebooks or digital books. But I have never grown fond of Ebooks or digital books. One reason for it is I have a weakness in my eyes so I cannot see a digital screen for a long time. Besides, I like to touch the hardcopy of a book. I am a sentimentalist and more interested in realistic things. The other thing is that today we don’t see committed readers or committed artistes. People are instant now and not interested in staying longer with a book or work. Sometimes, I feel whether we are from another era or another world. Because, though I am ready to read hundreds of books relating to the subject of my historical novel, now people never embark on such a journey for their own work.

Q: Your advice to an aspiring reader?

A: I initially wanted to become a writer, not an actor. This is because I was very much attracted to reading. I read any kind of book that reached me. Because of this reading habit, I could publish two novels, and now I am writing a film script which I intend to produce myself. And I think that reading enriches a person inwardly and outwardly. If someone reads fiction, he experiences other people’s lives, so that he could develop himself or herself. And to become a good human being there is nothing like reading. So, I say for aspiring readers read as much as you can and never limit yourself to fiction, read any book.