Saman Dissanayake’s 7th novel – Surangana Kumariya (Fairy Princes) published recently by Dayawansa Jayakody publishers

Reviewed by Rasika Suriyaarachchi -

In April each year, Sinhala community organisations in Sydney collectively organise a cultural event to celebrate the dawn of the traditional Sinhala New Year. The celebrations are usually held in Roselea Community Centre and surrounding grounds in Carlingford. It is a full days affair where culturally significant customs are observed, in-door and out-door cultural sporting activities are held and beauty pageants and cultural performances are staged.

A notable visitor, clad in a multi-coloured Palei-kart sarong, a brown coat over his white banian and a turban over his head, was seen roaming around in the Roselea Hall during the new year celebrations in 2007 and 2008. He was soon identified as a Kavi-kola-kaaraya, a ballard-monger. He was selling a printed Ballard in aid of two publication projects launched by the Sinhalase Cultural Forum of NSW to produce a collection of short stories depicting Sinhala migrant experience in Australia and a book about Australia written in traditional style Sinhala poetry.

Ballards, viridu,  song lyrics, general poetry, short stories, novels, articles on classical topics and even bush journals are complementary sub-genres of Sinhala literature. Each of these different types of writing has made a unique contribution to the development of the Sinhala literature over the years. Those who talk enthusiastically about the currently emerging Sinhala sub-culture in Australia do pay their due attention to such articles, fiction and poetry written by Sinhala writers domiciled in Australia and their contribution to the Sinhala literature in general is always appreciated.

In this context its thrilling to announce here that that Saman Dissanayake, a veteran Novelist living amongst us in Sydney Australia has his seventh novel titled “Surangana Kumariya” (Fairy Princes) published recently by Dayawansa Jayakody publishers, Colombo.

Saman Dissanayake’s previous novels, Bambarende Kangawena, Kangaroo Nmanaya, Punchi Sir, Randenigala Walawwa, Duruthu Sihina and Lansi Kella, all Dayawansa Jayakody publications, all became popular in Sri Lanka. Better still, Saman Dissanayake’s literary activities over the last decade has had a commendable impact on the establishment of a Diasporic genre in Sinhala Literature in general and an Australian Sinhala writing culture in particular.

Storyline in “Surangana Kumariya” twines around the ups and downs of the life of Thelanee, a village girl from a poor family in Southern Sri Lanka. Saman Dissanayake uses his typical story telling methodology full of twists and turns and the easily readable syntax to present how Thelanee, who saw her school education ending abruptly due to family issues, finds a job in the ready-made garment industry and then eventually achieves riches. Adding spice to Saman Dissanayake’s interesting story line are: a former Aus-Lankan now living back in Sri Lanka as a rich industrialist, a extra-marital love affair he has had, children he has sired illegitimately and Thelanee’s eventual re-union with of her previously unknown father, a killer combination, in popular literary terms.

It is noteworthy here that Saman Dissanayake has yet again managed to leave his trade-mark Australian connection that was seen in majority of his previous novels in “Surangana Kumariya” as well and has thereby documented the strong connection our country of birth has with our country of choice.

In a private conversation, Saman Dissanayake said that writing “Surangana Kumariya” marked a significant milestone in his writing life. This is apparently because he temporarily deviated from his effortless writing style that he was blessed with so far and crafted this entire novel purposely targeting the young adult female readers. These female readers typically with a lower social background are employed in lower ranks in various industries in Sri Lanka including the ready-made garmet industry. This is currently an important segment of Sinhala literary connoisseurs in Sri Lanka.

The childhood Thelanee spends in a typical village under poverty, her migration to the city looking for riches, the job she finds in the ready-made garment industry, are experiences that these young adult female readers can easily connect with. Furthermore, reading novels of this genre would provide sufficient mental strength for these female readers who live with an eternal dream of an economically and socially prosperous life, to keep their high aspirations continuously alive. Those “Robber-Barron” capitalists who exploit the labour of these unfortunate souls and the political puppets who have been ruling the country should be extremely pleased as well.

I have no doubt that “Surangana Kumariya” would be a competitive publication among the novels currently in circulation in Sri Lanka targeting the above mentioned segment of Sinhala literary connoisseurs.

Had Saman Dissanayake sought my advice before selecting the title of this novel, I would have asked him to name it “Sura Kumariya”, since he wanted it to mean “Fairy Princes”. To me, the word “Surangana” means Fairy Lady and using the suffix Kumariya gives the title an awkward meaning.

Saman Dissanayake is not just a Novelist. His short stories have been published in Australian Sinhala magazines and also included in “Thirasa Tharana”, the short story collection depicting the Sinhala migrant experience in Australia published in 2008. His poetry was included in “Dakunu Kuru Div Kav : Sinhala Poetic impression of Australia” published in 2010. His has composed lyrics for a number of songs sung by Sydney based Sinhala singers. He has also written a number of articles on various topics for Sinhala magazines. He is a former editor of the magazine “The Sinhala” published by the Sinhalese Cultural Forum of NSW.

In my humble opinion, a pioneering writer like Saman Dissanayake who has excelled in all facets of Sinhala literary activities is a true inspiration and a source of energy to all emerging Sinhala writers in Australia.

Finally, I wish our Sydney’s greatest Sinhala Novelist, Saman Dissanayake all the courage and strength to compose many more novels and other literary creations.



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