He wrote down his culture; why can't we?
Ken Follett tops my list of favourite authors, basically not because
of his thrillers; of all his novels I have read, there are two grand
masterpieces: 'The Pillars of the Earth' and 'World Without End'.
Sao paalo cathedral
Reading both these works is not an easy deal with a page count of
more than 2000. But count on me, it's really 'unputdownable' (as The
Guardian has rightly said!); 2000 pages is going to be a sensational
journey much better than getting bogged down with some 200 boring pages
for days - or months!
Follett does not enjoy a fat readership in Sri Lanka. You won't lay
hands on many of his books like Sydney Sheldon and Wilbur Smith and
Paulo Coelho on local book shelves. Well, this is not going to be a
review of his two books. But I am impressed on the way Follett
manipulates the making of cathedral with a creative maturity. The novels
do not drag you up the wall because it does not seem and sound a mere
archaeological novel in the least. It's a family saga that runs parallel
to the making of the cathedral.
I am now done with both novels; with a question. Why don't we have a
local cathedral novel? I haven't come across a single Sinhala or Sri
Lankan English novel based on a dagoba or any local replica of the
cathedral. There must be books written on dagoba, but I mean - I repeat,
in fact - a family saga that runs parallel to the making of the dagoba.
This sounds Buddhist, but it is my muse, for it affects literature.
I think I see grounds; Buddhism does not glorify materialism. This
attitude must have naturally psyched out the creative writers to remain
within the confines of glorifying the Buddha's life creatively. On the
contrary the agrarian society had enough artistes skilled in arts like
sculpture and painting. A Christian Prior and a Buddhist Chief Prelate
are quite poles apart on their work roles. But at the same time they
show similar features if we scan the ancient society. Both the Prior and
Chief Prelate were held in esteemed spiritual roles assigned with ruling
counties. They had enough time - those old days - to task people with
I do not look down on glorifying the Buddha's life in a creative
mode, but at the same time we should have guts to walk off the borders.
We should have writers to have same vivid descriptions on how our
ancient builders made dagobas and sort of things.
Throughout 'Pillars' and 'World', I was in the company of the society
I belong to: the Chief Prelates and dagobas in the world of Priors and
Cathedrals. I wish I could work a novel on this theme. Working a script
on a dagoba might be easy, but work out a novel with an interesting
family saga is a hard job that requires heavy patience. At the end of
the day, I won't be in for that job.
I am not disappointed, though. The hope of seeing somebody to take up
this challenge from my own society keeps me waiting.