Sri Lanka Literature

According to Cellphoneexplorer, Sri Lanka is an island state in the Indian Ocean, located SE of the Indian Peninsula, from which it is separated by the Strait of Palk. Already a British possession with the name of Ceylon, independent from 1948 within the Commonwealth, in 1972 it took on its current name.

The oldest works in the Sinhalese language have reached us date back to the 10th century.: it is a literature entirely influenced by Buddhism (especially from the Buddhist canon of the Theravada school and the collection of jātaka), on the one hand a distinctly exegetical character, from another characterized by a vast production in verse with a religious background. A masterpiece of this literature is Guruḷugōmī’s Amāvatura (“The Ambrosia River”) (12th-13th century), the only prose work written entirely in eḷu, which illustrates one of the 9 qualities attributed to the Buddha and precisely that of man’s spiritual guide. Due to a 12th century writer. of which only the pseudonym (Vidyācakravarti “Universal Sovereign of science”) is known is Amṛtāvaha (“The river of ambrosia”), also called Tunsaraṇa (“The triple refuge”) as it includes 3 different works: Butsaraṇa (“The refuge of the Buddha “), Dahamsaraṇa (” The Refuge of the Law “) and Saṅgasaraṇa (” The Refuge of the Community “).

Among the poems with a religious background inspired by the “ornate style compositions” (kāvya), the oldest is Muvadevdāvata (“History of Makhādeva”, 12th century), by an unknown author. The Kavsiḷuminạ (“Gem among the poems”), due to the sovereign Parākramabāhu II (13th century) and inspired by the romantic story of King Kusa, as found in the Kusajātaka, is the most representative of the “precious” literary works (mahākāvya) of Sinhala literature. A famous poet is Toṭagamuvē Śrī Rāhula (15th century), author of the Kāvyaśekharaya (“The Supreme Poem”) which narrates the pains of love of an elderly Brahmin caused by the infidelity of his young wife. Noteworthy are the sandeśa-type poems (“messages”) that flourished between the 14th and 15th centuries. and inspired by the precious Sanskrit compositions whose theme is a “messenger” (dūta: hence their denomination of dūtakāvya).

The 19th century. marks the advent of modern literature, which from now on takes on a secular character and introduces new genres such as the novel, short story and compositions in free verse. Forerunner of the Sinhalese novelists is considered LI de Silva, author of Pavul deka (“The two families”), an accompanying novel published from 1866 to 1883. The pioneer of fiction is however P. Sirisena, author of Vāsanāvanta vivāhaya hevat Jayatissa saha Rosalin (“The happy marriage or Jayatissa and Rosalin”, 1904) and a series of detective novels. Interpreter of the transformations operating in the society and culture of his country is MM Wickremasinghe, whose works stand out for their realism, the psychological analysis of the characters and the refinement of the narrative. Another great novelist is ER Sarachchandra, also active as an essayist, playwright and screenwriter. Masters of the story are considered H. Munidasa and GB Senanayake.

According to the inspiring themes and the meters used, the poets of the modern age are divided into 4 distinct currents: the traditionalists, among which A. Rajakaruna, GH Perera, BH Amarasena, KH de Silva stand out; the purists, who employ a learned and artificial language and whose most famous representatives are M. Kumaratunga and R. Tennakoon; the moderns, referred to as the Poetic School of Columbus, who use the language of current use and are inspired by themes of everyday life: the results achieved by Sri Lanka Palansooriya, PB Alwis Perera, W. Kumaragana are noteworthy. Finally, the ultramodern poets, or Sinhalese group of free verse, who favor content aspects over formal values: among the most representative figures, GB Senanayake, G. Amarasekera and Sri Lanka Gunasinghe.

There is no theatrical tradition in Sinhalese culture; a rudimentary form of theater (nādagam) comes to life and becomes popular in the 19th century; then a genre of operetta (nūrtiya) is established, which follows the musical theater of the Parsi. The authors were, among others, CDB Jayawira Bandara, J. de Silva; while the aforementioned Sarachchandra has given life to a new musical and choreographic style of which Siṃhabahu (“He who has the strength of a lion”, 1961) offers the best example.

Sri Lanka Literature