Psychological novel on marriage | Sunday Observer

Psychological novel on marriage

16 January, 2022

Reviewed by Somapala Arandara

‘Vivahaka Premaya’

Translated by R.S. Karunaratne

Sooriya Publishers, Colombo 10

130 pages

R.S. Karunaratne’s Vivahaka Premaya is the authentic Sinhala translation of Alberto Moravia’s novel ‘Conjugal Love.’ A superficial reader might read it as an account of a middle-aged man and his wife who leads an immoral life. However, it is a novel depicting the psychological problems that arise between a husband and a wife.

In the opening chapter itself, the author tries to differentiate between love and marriage. According to him, real love is not only seeking delight in looking at the physical beauty of your wife but also putting up with her weaknesses. Such an attitude will lead to better understanding and mutual cooperation and respect.

Leda is a woman in her mid-thirties. She had married before and has children. She is depicted as a crafty woman who has mastered the art of seducing inexperienced men. Silvio, her second husband, thinks that it was he who lured her into marriage. Towards the end of the story, he realises that he had been lured by her charms.


Leda prevents his sexual advances by telling him that he should first finish writing his book. At the same time there are indications that he was an impotent husband. Gradually she is attracted to Antonio who is a barber. Although he has an ugly and aggressive look, Antonio succeeds in his advances towards Leda.

For a short time they manage to conceal their relationship from her husband. It seems that Leda wants to groom her impetuous husband into a mature and responsible man. She succeeds in her mission as Silvio forgives her misbehaviour.

At times Silvio considers himself as a superman. In fact Leda was looking for a stable partner after her divorce from her husband in Switzerland. She wants to marry someone who loves her truly. Even Silvio was leading a loveless life. When he meets Leda, he immediately decides to marry her.

As in most marriages, problems arise when a third party makes his or her appearance. When compared to Antonio, Silvio is a man of higher status. With the advent of Antonio, Silvio becomes a hunter defeated by the wild boar as in Leonard Woolf’s celebrated novel ‘The Village in the Jungle.’

Vivahaka Premaya bears a strong resemblance to Albert Camu’s novel La Chute (Fall). It is a study of human behaviour of its hero Jean-Baptiste Clamance in relation to other parties involved in his life.

Leda’s nature is manifested when she displays her unwillingness to accompany Silvio when he wants to travel in a chariot. Instead of going with him she wants to know what time he will be back from his journey.

Real feelings

While posing as a faithful wife, Leda wants to meet her lover secretly. When Silvio returns from his journey he finds Leda like an excited young girl. However, when Silvio mentions the name of the barber, she begins to play with a glass ball used as a lid of a decanter. She has her hair dressed like a girl.

On the first day when the barber was dressing her hair, he had purposely pressed against her arm. On that occasion, she wanted Silvio to dismiss the barber. It may be that she wanted to hide her real feelings. Silvio, however, did not consider it a serious matter and ignored her complaint.

Leda says furiously, “You say it can’t be done and you force me to see that hideous-looking man. You impel me to have contact with that man.” Later she has a tryst with the barber. In a way, she is not totally responsible for the breach of trust. Thus Silvio and Leda depict a subtle aspect of marriage which is of interest to psychologists and ordinary readers.