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Sunday, 1 February 2015





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Government Gazette

A deserving tribute to a great literary critic

Reviewed by Neil Christopher

Sucharitha Siritha
Author: Eric Illayaparachchi

It is an indisputable fact that Prof. Sucharitha Gamlath was an authority of Sinhala literary criticism and without a thorough and assiduous study of his writings none can tread along the path of Sinhala literature.

Jacque Derrida, I remember, once said, “Without the ghost of Mark human race can have no future.” It is true to say that without the ghost of Sucharitha Gamlath Sinhala literary criticism can have no future. In fact, with the demise of Gamlath Sinhala literary criticism has become a widow.

Strenuous task

It is really a strenuous task to encapsulate the contribution of such an intellectual giant in a book and it is more difficult and arduous task to grasp that contribution, multi-dimensional, in a poem. Eric Illayaparachchi seems to have taken up the challenge of doing so and his Sucharitha Siritha’ succeeds in meeting the challenge to a greater and commendable extent.

Prof. Gamalath radiated invaluable inspiration on the young generation. He was in fact the greatest intellectual warrior of our times and deserves to be called the Plekhanov of Sri Lanka.

Illayaparachchi seems to have made an attempt to touch the falls and rises of Gamlath in a form of poetry and explores the massive intellectual toiling Gamlath had with a view to establishing true methodology of literary criticism, earlier shrouded by the cobwebs of mysticism, romanticism, spiritual idealism and what not.

What is quite evident in Illayaparachchi's poem is his sincere sense of tribute to late Prof. Gamlath.

Man of letters

To narrate a character of a great man of letters, a poet should have deep a understanding of the classical poetic tradition of the language he uses and it is to his credit that the poet displays his mastery of classical poetic diction.

The poet seems to follow the Sandesa Kavya (messege poem) tradition to unveil the character of Prof. Gamlath who was first a Bhikkhu and whose role in that capacity is little known. In the form of a letter written by Gamlath's sister the poet uses his imagination to delve into the possible ruminations of a young Samanera.

Prof. J.B. Disanayaka once said that Prof. Gamlath had written a book of poetry called, Nura Gini Del, using a Pseudonym, about which is also little known. If Illayaparachchi made an attempt to get hold of a copy of that book, he could sense the way of thinking of his protagonist as a budding writer.

Prof. Gamlath in many of his writings, Guru Guna Samara, in particular, a tribute to the late Prof. Sarachandra, has painted a picture of exaggeration about the University of Peradeniya but in the light of Gunadasa Amerasekera. Illayaparachchi compares the university to a carrion. Here the poet displays his critical perspective and leaves the reader to re-think about what has been said about the University of Peradeniya during 1950s and 1960s.


Gamlath's stay in London as a person reading for his PhD is finely narrated by the poet with some ironic sarcasm.

Although the poet says that Gamlath and other Sinhala intellectuals who were then in London discussed the destiny of Sir Lanka, I do not think that apart from Sugathapala Silva most of others, after coming back to Sri Lanka, do not seem to have consciously involved in what the poet imagines.

The poet brings into exposure some realities prevalent in the country after the country was made a Democratic Socialist Republic just constitutionally, and how making Sinhala as the official language led the majority into ethnic masturbation while the minority was disappointed over their bleeding fate to experience subsequently.

The period when Gamlath worked as a lecturer in the University of Jaffna does not seem to have been explored well by the poet.

The intellectual bridge they could have built in the capacity as civil personalities between the two major ethnic groups and the discourse they could have given rise seem to be beyond the grasp of the poet.

The role of Prof. Gamlath, expelled from the university service and as a card-carrying member of a revolutionary party, which made Gamlath a Marrist aesthetician of recognition seems also to have slipped from the grasp of the poet.

Many so-called intellectuals had harboured a grudge against Gamlath for he single-handedly challenged them and showed their stark nudity with regard to the application of knowledge to assess the quality of a work of art.

They expected Gamlath to follow Prof. Sarachchandra. As the poet says they as Brahmins expected him to do so but Gamlath entered boldly the danger zone where conspiracy of silence and stinking feudalism reigned.

As the poet says Gamlath had to place his neck on the guillotine of feudalism. The universities had become temples of obscurantism and the discourse Gamlath had been promoting was shamelessly overlooked.

The poet is artistically excellent when he narrates Gamlath's visit to his first alma mater, the temple where he was ordained as a Bhikkhu.

Inspite of the fact that there are so me instances where the poet seems to have been misinformed about some facts relating to the events occurred in the complication of Gamlath's English-Sinhala Dictionary, the poet has been fair by Gamlath to a greater extent and Illayaparachchi deserves to be called an excellent biographical poet.



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