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Insightful essays on diverse aspects of literary criticism

The book entitled "Consciousness: the writer's primary pen" by Dilshan Boange" is a collection of essays on literary criticism. Among other things, the book fulfils an important intellectual lacuna in the area of literary criticism. The book's strength lies in its application of literary theory particularly in the context of modern and post-modern writers.

A remarkable trait of the author is that his ability to apply profound literary theories in general and in the context of modernistic writings spearheaded by seminal authors such as Milan Kundera. In fact most of the essays are based on Milan Kundera's works such as The Book of Laughter and Forgetting and Unbearable Lightness of Being. Dilshan Boange, who is a young academic and creative writer, is also applying his knowledge of literary theory in the sphere of creative writing as well.

Kundera's authorial voice

In the essay, Consciousness, the writer's primary pen, the author looks at Milan Kundera's work in terms of its narrative motifs. The crust of the argument seems to be that in Kundera's author's voice is present in Kundera's narrative style as against many medieval English authors. As a prelude to the argument, the author traverses the evolution of modern English novel and its present state. He states "The conventions upheld in the Victorian ethos that marked the form and structure of the 'novel' were broken through the emergence of what is called Modernist writing. The forerunner of the 'modern novel' is generally seen not in English writing but in the Norwegian novel Sult (which was translated to English as "Hunger") by Knut Hamsun ...It was through the narrative approach that Hamsun devised for Hunger that the narrative style /form known as 'Stream of consciousness' was birthed to the world of literature ...The emphasis for the 'plot' in the 'story' does not come out as strongly as it would in the conventional novel"

Boange, among other things, pointed out that the author in modernist novel as those of Kundera's, plays an active role in the 'plot' as against in the conventional novel where often a character becomes a mouthpiece of the author. In the case of Milan Kundera, he pointed out that 'authorial voice' is very much present.

" .....Kundera's 'authorial presence' in his work project a consciousness that does not stifle its expanses of thinking and exploration for means by which the writer's idea (s) may be presented in a novel. Works of such nature would no doubt further new advances in devising narrative mode(s) for contemporary writing"

In concluding his thesis, the author points out that looking at Kundera's style with some details that it can be suggested that ' it is the writer's consciousness ' that crafts the novel and births the 'text'.

In the article Impressions on Milan Kundera's The book of Laughter and Forgetting, the author analyses the text and narrative of the novel from diverse perspectives, offering readers fresh views. Dilshan writes "Through the course of the novel Kundera presents a thesis of distinguishing History from the 'past'. Through a character named Mirek, a victim of communist persecution in Prague, the writer presents a facet to the Aristotelian theory of 'man by nature is a political animal'. The past of an individual is seen by the author as integral to the formation of identity with political motives. "

What Dilshan suggests is that an individual cannot escape from the political landscape against which he or she acts. In other words, the past of an individual is greatly impacted on his present and the constitution of identity.

"The past, resides in memories of an individual who posses it as personal and perhaps, as undeclared experiences that led to the present. An interesting and insightful observation is a city's 'defacing and refacing' as the political landscape which gives form and identity to it changes.

"When Kundera portrays Prague as a victim of successive political agenda that 'defaced' the city and 'refaced' it on to a path of transformation that tacks towards unrecognisability, he appears to suggest that Prague is subordinate to the regime, and was erased of the linkage it carried with the collective soul of its populace. " The author illustrates it is not only the character of the city which is defacing but also the identity of the population which caught up in the transition.

"Within inner sancta of individuals, in their emotions' depth, memories may be preserved with sanctity. Kundera gently unfolding such sanctified memories. Memories that may be unsung, unspoken, unwritten and not so much as breathed beyond parameters of one's being, lest it swept up by a tide of persecuting political conformity."

The article entitled "A phenomenological glimpse at Hemingway's 'Old Man' "offers important insights into Hemingway's famous work The Old Man and the Sea. Before examining the merits and demerits of the author's attempt analysing the text, it is pertinent, at least, briefly, to look at Phenomenology developed by German philosopher Edmund Husserl.

Husserl's crust of the philosophy is to perceive phenomena as acts of consciousness. The author pint out that phenomenological interpretation is possible by 'objectification of phenomena within the consciousnesses.

In a nutshell, Phenomenology studies the structures of consciousness from a first person perspective. The internality is the central structure of an experience which is being directed towards something as it is an experience of or about some object. In the story The Old Man and the Sea , the author states " Santiago may be viewed as presenting a series of phenomena just as much as his body may be looked upon as an object which could be given a phenomenological reading. For instance, the author shows that the Santiago's body becomes a phenomenon 'to understand the world surrounding it'.

"He did not truly feel good because the pain from the cord across his back had almost passed pain and gone into a dullness that he mistrusted. But, I have had worse things than that. My hand is only cut a little and the cramp is gone from the other"

Lyrical richness of The English Patient

One of the most interesting essays in the book is 'The lyrical richness of The English Patient'. This may be a hitherto unperceived trait in Ondaatje's The English Patient. Although the critics have praised The English Patient for its poetic text, the author stresses that ' rarely that one would find among the bodies/ collections of existing academic works an in-depth analysis to identify and expound the elements which would form the 'lyricism' in The English Patient" .

Dilshan's thesis is that Ondaatje evokes sensuality and elusiveness in the text through schematic imagery/ metaphor in the narration. "Devising simile or metaphor out of the image of human body in connection with features and traits of nature and geography and structuring them in a recurrent pattern of the novel is a significant characteristic which Ondaatje has crafted with much fineness.". What is obvious from these insightful observations on the part of the author is his impressive knowledge of literary theory and their applications in general and in textual analysis in particular. It should be mentioned here that the author has fulfilled an important function of an academic. It is to engage in continuous research in a given field and to produce knowledge.

The essay entitled "The lyrical richness of The English Patient "warrants attention of both scholars and literary fans is that it sheds light on The English Patient from an entirely different perspective. In further exploring the theme, Dilshan ventures into an area of the novel which is the desert landscape. The desert landscape in Ondaatje's The English Patient plays a pivotal role in the evolution of the plot. At a certain level, the desert landscape almost assumed a role of a character in the narration.

"The North African desert is very important to the novel as the setting in which a large part of the story takes place. The quality of elusiveness can be seen as evoked in the novel through the image and descriptions of the desert which becomes a thematic element in the story. "

Citing an extract of the text, Dilshan drive home the fact that Ondaatje has used simple present and present progressive tenses in the same text in order to infuse lyrical richness into the text. The author, citing George T. Wright, shows that Ondaatje is using 'lyrical tense' which the celebrated poets such as Keats and Yeats employed.

"The very opening line of the novel is written in simple present verb tense 'She stands up in the garden where she has been working looks into the distance'. The novel is interwoven with both present and the past tense and this adds to the richness of the 'texture' of the novel which shows many significant textural features that evoke lyrical quality in the text"

Another factor which contributed to the lyrical richness of The English Patient, the author states, is the use of verse in prose narrative. For instance, the author says that Ondaatje has used lyrics of Jazz songs in the narration in addition to stanzas such as those from John Milton's "Paradise Lost" in the text. In concluding the essay, the author states that the short essay on the lyrical richness of "The English Patient" is not a comprehensive essay on the vast subject area. But, it is a reading of the Ondaatje's text from a different perspective.

Gauging the text as a fabric of words

In the chapter entitled (The) Texture of Text, Dilshan discusses John Crowe's approaches to literary criticism which led to the birth of 'New Criticism'. Among the important contribution of this school of literary criticism is the concept of 'Texture'.

He points out "'Texture' has become an approach by which the form /structure of a text is analaysed and interpreted since Ransom propounded it through the New Criticism. And today studies in Letters have adapted Ransom's methods for texts other than poetry and have expanded significantly as framework for study and analysis of textual structure(s). "

Stressing the importance of the concept of 'Texture', Dilshan points out "Academic advancements in Letters in Sri Lanka may benefit significantly if studies into texture were designed into university curricula. .."

The essay "(The) 'Texture' of texts" the focus is on the academic methods of studying a text in the modernist ways that were developed by the academic John Crowe Ransom who expounded his ideas for studying the form of literature through studying its 'texture'. This essay gives an outline of developing textual analysis which focuses on the form and aesthetic quality of a poem or prose rather than the ideology and politics it may present. The essay also emphasizes how studies in texture could be useful for universities in Sri Lanka if a course in creative writing is to be developed in the future.

Imagology

In the essay on Kunderian Imagology, the author discusses how Imagology has been used to build true to life images. Dilshan cites Jayantha Chandrasiri's "Guerilla Marketing" exemplifies the application of Imagology in contemporary democratic politics.

"The central politico role played by Jackson Anthony tells the protagonist, an adverting maverick played by Kamal Addararachchi, that he is not concerned with 'public opinion' since it can be 'created' by advertising agencies. A point of argument comes very strongly in support of this, in Kundera's discourse on Imagology where he says "Public opinion polls are the critical instrument of Imagology's power, because it enables Imagology to live in absolute harmony with the people"

Untranslatable Czech word

A very insightful cultural aspect of the Czech people comes to light through the essay -"The Untranslatable Litost of Milan Kundera." The discussion is based on a section from Milan Kundera's The Book of Laughter and Forgetting where the concept behind the Czech word Litost is gauged and commented on in terms of how it may be applied to more contemporary situations. To understand a word from its cultural grounding can be at times complex for people across cultures. It is for this very reason the essay cites the examples of situations which Kundera presents in The Book of Laughter and Forgetting. Critiquing Kundera's view that Litost (which is a condition of mind and heart that makes a person feel despair and hoplessness to the point of self destructiveness) as not being caused (sometimes) by love (which is the opinion of Kundera) but the breaking down of a love relationship the essay presents its own analytical commentary.

Comparative literature -Kundera and Ondaatje

The essays "A Rationale for Love in relation to fiction of Kundera and Ondaatje" and "Age, visage and notions of the eternal" give an analytical commentary of how concepts of two great writers -Milan Kundera and Michael Ondaatje can be built as comparative literature. In the first of these two pieces the concept of 'love' is analyzed through the novels The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Kundera and The English Patient by Ondaatje. How each writer gives a rationale and contextualizes love in the respective narratives provides the reader insight of how there may be certain similarities in the ideas of each writer though each novel presents a theme and plot that stands apart from each other and in fact had been written in two different languages. Kundera's novel was originally written in Czech. In the second essay the concept of ageing and the human dilemma of losing one's youth. The novels Immortality by Kundera and The English Patient by Ondaatje are the texts that are cited. These two essays can offer an understanding to the approach of comparative literature, and how similarities in concepts, and ideas that complement one another in works by two different authors may be discussed in the context of a common theme.

Dilshan discusses how literatus treat the concept of aging and mortality. Citing Milan Kundera and Michael Ondaatje , the author points out " It is the looming of mortality that drives the human being on the quest for its antithesis. And what then would bring to our consciousness those two conceptions that are interdependent in their sense of 'meaning making'? It is clearly the element/aspect of 'visage' that becomes the driving factor which makes one to be conscious of ageing. "

The book Consciousness; the writer's primary pen is one of the important publications on contemporary literary theory and is a must read for both scholars and literature lovers.


A different kind of religious ceremony for 28 Buddhas

Placing of the statues of 28 Buddhas on the apron of the Kiri Vehera (milky white pagoda) and planting of 28 Bosaplings, will take place on May 17. The procession carrying the Bosaplings and statues will leave Panipitiya on May 17 for Kataragama.


Statues of the Buddhas

The Buddha paid his respects to the Bodhi which provided him shelter by looking at it continuously without batting an eyelid for a week. Similarly, the Bodhi of diverse plant species provided shelter for 28 Buddhas. Therefore, it is our duty to pay homage to those Bodhi. Devakarkusha Padaham Sarana Sangamaya of Pannipitiya has organised a religious ceremony to plant 28 Bosaplings which sheltered 28 Buddhas on the third apron of the Kiri Vehera and to put up 28 corresponding statues of Buddhas.

The chairman of the foundation, K.K.W. Upali said planting of 28 Bosaplings was a concept of the chief incumbent of Kiri Vehera Raja Maha Vihara, the Sangha Nayaka of Ruhunu Magampathuva Ven. (Dr) Aluthvewa Soratha thera.

Viraj Punchihewa and Krishanthi Punchihewa said the members of the 28 Bodhi planting committee of the Association had dedicated their time, resources and energy for the project.

"When Ven. Soratha thera entrusted us with the task, we thought that it was an easy task. But it was a difficult to find the exact Bodhi which provided shelter for 28 Buddhas, according to their botanical names. With the assistance of Susil Gamage and Piyal Marasinghe and with the patronage of Ayurvedic Research Institute of Nawinna and the University of Peradeniya, we were able to find the exact 28 Bodhis. With the help of Director General of the Peradeniya Botanical Gardens, Cyril Wijesundara, we were able to get down two Bodhis which were not found in Sri Lanka, from India. Accordingly, we got down Sal and Salala Bodhi from India". said Viraj Punchihewa and Krishantha Punchihewa.

The planting of 28 Bosaplings began in 2009. First, the Bosaplings were planted in bowls but later, they were are planted in flower pots. Now they have grown up to 8-10 feet. They have been planted in such a way that they can, in future, be transported to Kataragama.

An added feature of the program is the construction of 28 chamber on the third apron of Kiri Vehera in Kataragama. Each chamber is 8 feet tall and 4 feet wide and a two hand half feet tall Buddha statue will be installed in each such chamber and corresponding Budhi will be planted right behind each chamber. A one acre land has been allocated for the project.

A large chamber 14 feet tall, 8 feet long and 6 feet wide-will be put up where a 6 feet tall statue of Gautama Buddha will be installed and an Asatu Bodhi (Ficus religiose) will be planted right behind it. The procession carrying the 28 statues of Buddha will leave Pannipitiya at 3.30 a.m on the Vesak Full moon day to reach Kataragama by the evening on 17, via Homagama, Avissawella, Ratnapura, Pelmadulla, Thidolkatiya, Udawalawa, Thanamalvila, Lunugamvehera and Tissamaharamaya. The devotees will be offered the opportunity to pay how age to the 28 statues of Buddha.


Ground work being carried out at Kiri Vehera in
Kataragama to place 28 statues of the Buddhas

The religious ceremony to place the statues of Buddha in chamber and planting of Bodhi will commence at 2.30 p.m. at Kiri Vehera in Kataragama on May 18.

The first Pahan Puja (homage of light) and Atavisi Buddha Puja will be conducted by Ven. Ehelakanne Sumana thera. The maiden Buddhist sermon at the opening of 28 Buddhas will be delivered by Shastrapetha Ven. Polonnaruwe Vachissara thera, a lecturer at the University of Uva. A Seth Pirith chanting will be held in the evening and the Maha Pirith will be chanted at 9.30 p.m. The Association has also taken steps to put up a permanent Daham Mandapaya (a kind of structure) near the third apron of Kiri Vehera. Chancellor Uva Wellassa University and the Chief incumbent of Kiri Vehera Rajamaha Vihara, Ven. Aluthvewa Soratha, Chancellor University of Ruhuna, Attudawe Sri Rahuma thera and the Chief Minister of Uva Province and Basnayaka Nilame of Kataragama Shashindra Rajapaksa will attend the series of religious ceremonies.

 

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