Category Archives: literary achievements

LLRC advocated Bilingual National Anthem and Other Cultural Paths towards Reconciliation


National Anthem

8.291 Several views were expressed concerning the use of the National Anthem as a unifying factor, and in bringing about greater understanding among the communities. One view was that it would be advisable to reflect the two national languages policy by symbolically introducing at least two lines in Tamil to the National Anthem.172 It was pointed out that this would be a major step towards healing the wounds of the past.

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Vale Jim Gair, Sinhala Enthusiast, Linguist Extraordinary

A Valedictory in American Academia


James Wells Gair, Ph.D. ’63, professor emeritus of linguistics who throughout a long and distinguished career produced groundbreaking work on South Asian languages and their relation to other languages, died Dec. 10 in Ithaca. He was 88.“Jim Gair was in many ways the paradigmatic Cornell linguist,” said John Whitman, chair and professor of linguistics. “He had a language passion for Sinhala, the language of Sri Lanka, and he threw himself entirely into it, teaching the language, writing textbooks for its learners, and analyzing both the colloquial language and its classical texts.

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Sinhalaness in the Middle Period and in Wars Against Colonial Intrusions

Chris Speldewinde, in the The Australian Journal of Anthropology, vol. r19, No. 1, 2008, reviewing  Michael Roberts. Sinhala Consciousness in the Kandyan Period 1590s to 1815. Colombo 4, Sri Lanka: Vijitha Yapa Publications. 2004. Pp.xx +274, bibliog., index. US$60.00 (He), ISBN 955-8095-31-1.

Having spent a considerable period during my undergraduate studies of anthropology concentrating on cultural aspects of Sri Lankan society, I was enthusiastic to have been given the opportunity to read and review this work by Michael Roberts. In this latest addition to his many volumes of work on his native Sri Lanka, Roberts, has provided a rich tapestry of the period pre-dating the formalisation of British colonial rule on the island of Sri Lanka. He examines the forms of reaction of a society affected by migrating Indians from the north and European colonial expansion, beginning with the arrival of the Portuguese in the mid-sixteenth century and later, the Dutch and the British. This book provides a considerable amount of both historiographical and ethnographic material, from a wide range of sources to keep the reader engrossed in the development of distinct ethnic identities on this island nation. The use of verbal history passed on through poems and songs from the period is used extensively to substantiate Roberts’ theories of the development of a definitive Sinhalese ethnic identity.


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Two Sri Lankan Tamil Voices from the North Today

Frances Bulathsinghala, courtesy of Daily FT, 5 August 2016, where the title reads “Post-war voices from the north.” The emphases in highlighted colours, however, are additions by The Editor, Thuppahi

Jaffna, Kilinochchi, Mullaitivu: Rajini is 46 years old and an ex-LTTE Commander with a 10-year-old daughter. She is a widow. She has few visitors. Tamil politicians are rarely among them.  Occasionally she chases off military officers who enter her premises in her absence and make themselves at home for hours in her garden. She flies into a rage at them. She informs them that they have no right to enter her garden in her absence. They accept, grin, make some lame excuses and good-naturedly lope off after the cursory examination of the military reference documentation that is as important for ex-militants in post-war times as it was for civilians in peace times. 

It is peace. At least there is no gunfire now. Of the memories of fire that continue to burn in hearts and minds we do not know.


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Leonard Woolf, The Anti-Imperialist

Thiru Arumugam, Courtesy of The Ceylankan: Journal of the Ceylon Society of Australia, journal 76, Vol. XIX, 4 November 2016

aawoolf-dogWoolf and his dog “Charles” in Jaffna

Introduction: The Ceylankan has carried three articles about Leonard Woolf. In the May 2004 issue Vama Vamadevan wrote an article titled Leonard Woolf  which mainly covered Woolf’s years in Ceylon (1904-1910). In the November 2004 issue Yasmine Gooneratne wrote an article titled Lone Woolf in which she presents a scholarly analysis of Woolf’s book Village in the Jungle and describes a forthcoming new edition of the book with misprints in the first (1913) edition corrected and excised passages restored. Yasmine’s article mentions Leonards “patient devotion with which he had nursed Virginia Woolf through her spells of mental illness, thereby guaranteeing to the world the emergence of its foremost female literary genius”.  Finally, in the February 2009 issue Philip Sansoni wrote an article titled Leonard Woolf – The Lonely Cadet and the Maiden in which he describes in great detail Woolf’s affair in Jaffna with Kitty Leyden. Woolf in the second volume of his autobiography1 says briefly that it was only a one-night stand where he lost his virginity, which had survived his days at Cambridge. However, in a letter to his good friend Lytton Strachey in England dated 12 November 1905written from Jaffna, Woolf said something more “… what do you think of my new one alone with a burgher concubine in a long whitewashed bungalow overlooking a lagoon, where time is only divided between reading Voltaire on the immense verandah and copulating in the vast and empty rooms …” Continue reading

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Leonard Woolf as a Judge in Ceylon

Prabath de Silva

“I welcome the publication of this second and revised edition of Prabhath de Silva’s book on the judicial work of Leonard Woolf, who tried many civil and criminal court cases when serving as a member of the Ceylon Civil Service at Hambantota from 1908 to 1911.  De Silva has taken pains to collect extensive evidence from many sources, including Woolf’s official diary, his autobiography, manuscripts found in the record room of Hambantota District Court, and his famous novel, The Village in the Jungle.  These sources are woven together to provide a vivid account of Woolf’s approach to law and justice.  In this new edition, de Silva has expanded his use of foreign and local secondary sources in order to place Woolf’s judicial work in a wider context.  De Silva’s analysis shows that Woolf’s distinctive personality affected the way he approached the cases he heard.  At the same time, the book also has wider implications for understanding colonial justice and the ideological foundations of British rule in Ceylon.”  Foreword by Dr.John D. Rogers:

a21 Woolf with Hambantota kachcheri staff Mudaliyars, Muhandiram and Engelbrecht

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Leonard Woolf as An Accidental Civil Servant in Ceylon

addendum:Joe Kovacs in Literary Traveller,  23 June 2005, …. where the title runs The Accidental British Servant: Leonard Woolf in Ceylon”

When I joined the Peace Corps and went to Sri Lanka in 1997, I took a leave of absence from a graduate program in English literature at Fordham University. I was unhappy with academia as an aspiring creative writer; I wanted to make literature, not analyze it. I had no idea how international development work in Asia could help, but at least it would provide a long-overdue vacation from education. I’d never left the United States before, and after an exhausting trip west from New York through San Francisco, Tokyo and Bangkok, the third flight of my trans-global journey arrived in the Sri Lankan capital of Colombo at two in the morning. I spent the rest of those benighted, pre-dawn hours in a retreat center in the jungle, trying to sleep. But the dense heat drenched me in sweat, even as I lay still in bed, the uncompromising mattress made my back sore and a swooping blue mosquito net left me entombed. Had I just made a mistake? From the jungle outside came a sudden high-pitched screech, convincing me that I’d come to a land of monsters. llw-222 lw-11

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