Sunday, December 7, 2008

nothing prepares you by vivimarie vanderpoorten

Okay, so I am not a poetry person, though I will read or at least skim through poetry books thrust on me. One such book literally forced upon me by a friend was vivimarie vanderpoorten’s book of poems. Firstly I loved the design of the book, it was clean, simple, nicely laid out, simple black and white sketches,printed on nice paper by a new publishing house that I hadn’t heard of before – Zeus books.
Now for the poems. What a lovely surprise to read poems that instantly appealed to the modern generation of Sri Lanka. From the very first poem that is about the tsunami of 2004 Vivimarie draws the reader in sharply, - there is no gentleness about her poems, -into the lives and sketches of life. In her second poem she admits that pain is her muse and after reading much of Sri Lankan literature, I realize that pain is the muse for most writers. But while others do it badly, Vivimarie does it well. But the ones I like best are her spiky poems that sting with wit, humour and anger. Poems that stand out are Decree Nisi, You’re Welcome, Visiting Giants, Doppelganger, actually most of the poems are good. And I hope Ms Vanderpoorten doesn’t mind if I reproduce one of her poems in this blog, to give you a taste of her poetry.

Haiku: Elections
Time to vote again
Cheerful faces on posters
Pasted promises

A man pees against
the wall, smiling lies can wait:
Nature’s call is strong

One of the reasons I like this book of poetry, is that it is not typical of Sri Lankan poetry that still groans and moans about village life, ayahs, walauwe’s, nelum flowers, Sigiriya frescoes. Come on poets! Write about life, reality, harshness, love – raw and real. And I suppose that is the real reason why I like vivimarie vanderpoorten’s poems. I look forward to her next collection and perhaps she will stun and surprise us with a novel in the near future.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Madol Duwa by Martin Wickremesinghe

Its perhaps strange but true that I only read the famous Madol Duwa a few days ago. Written by Martin Wickremesinghe, who is dubbed as the father of the Sinhala novel, I had heard about the novel for ages but was not inspired to read it. Charges that it is a blatant copy of Tom Sawyer and Huckelberry Finn perhaps dissuaded me from doing so. In any case my Sinhala is so bad, that I needed an English translation and so it was a happy day when a friend lent me her copy of the book. The book was translated by the notable Ashley Halpe, so one warm afternoon I settled down to read the slim book.
I was pleasantly surprised. Perhaps, it is similar to Mark Twain’s books but Wickremesinghe has done an excellent job in Sri Lankanising the story.
So in brief: a young boy and his servant boy Jinna end up on an island having run away from his father and stepmother. There they learn to live on their own, battle various intruders, and eventually become successful businessman selling vegetables in the area. Eventually Upali, the young hero, is discovered and goes back to his village and father to be welcomed with open arms.
I admired Wickremesinghe’s ability to hold the reader captive with interest. His insertion of Sri Lankan flora and fauna made it familiar and recognizable identifying with the Sri Lankan reader. My one criticism is the translation. I would have expected far more from Professor Halpe and instead was quite disappointed at the almost shoddy job that was done. It is my heartiest wish that Wickeremesinghe’s work would be translated at an international standard and made available to the non-Sinhala reader.