Focus on Books :
Works of de Lanerolle researched
Title: Panhindaka Viskam
(Wonders of the scribe)
A study of the works of V D de Lanerolle
(1893-1977) the writer poet and journalist.
Publisher: Sadeepa Publishing House, Colombo
Price: Rs 300
The Sinhala journalist, and novelist Yasawardhana Rodrigo has
embarked on a study long forgotten by many others.
According to Rodrigo’s present study on V D de Lanerolle the writer,
poet, journalist and contributor of children’s supplementary readers at
school level of education was once given the chance to address an
enthusiastic literary gathering in Bomiriya, birthplace of both Rodrigo
Rodrigo says that he had the chance of carefully scrutinising the
history where he could place de Lanerolle and his literary
Hence he triggered off to a target of interest which ultimately
culminating in the methodical compilation of a hunting for the source
material and interpret to the present reader the various literary
cultural and historical nuances embedded in them. As a starting point
the researcher Rodrigo goes into the distant past in order to perceive
who these Lanerolles are.
The entire commencing chapter deals with these chronological material
that go as far back as the migration of a certain French lineage who
gradually settled down first in the hill country and had come to stay in
the law country, where they are said to have acculturized into the
indigenous settlement absorbing the language, religion and culture as
Coming on to the literary contributions of V D de Lanerolle the
researcher throws much light on his knowledge of Lanerolle as regards
poetics and folklore.
The gamut of works of V D de Lanerolle could be categorized into
about eight of ten sub categories as he had excelled in the adaptation
of several foreign tales into local Sinhala language suitable for the
reading at school level.
Then come special categories of works that could be ranged as
reminiscences or nostalgic works such as remembering the events of the
past as recorded in books such as Atitaya, which had been a bestseller.
This book of remembrances covers various aspects such as people, events,
notes, legends, religious traits and politics.
The writer de Lanerolle had gone to the extent of writing most of
these books in exile in places like asylums, as he has liked enjoyed the
bliss of being treated by others taking him as a mental patient.
This pretext had worked wonders, resulting in the production of self
referential books titled as Umatu Tharunaya (Crazy Boy) and Mage modakam,
hapankam, saha purasaran (My frailties, skills and praises). These books
have won the readership over the years not only for the humour that had
evoked but also for the sheer boldness in the presentation, devoid of
Then comes a significant contribution called Piyasirige Pasal Samaya
(School Days of Piyasiri). Said to be autobiographed and partly
fictitious highly readable and packed with socio cultural and historical
actualities drawn from a particular social frame of the colonial times.
The book is reminiscent of one of the favourite English books of the
time called ‘Tom Brown’s School Days’ which came to be branded as
significant work in the juvenile literature.
Lanerolle was perpetually dwelling in the field of poetry with
various experimentation that go into the making of children’s poetry,
love poetry, sandesa or messenger poetry (one remarkable contribution is
Malavi Sandesaya) and an editor of a monthly magazine kavindraya devoted
He had also translated quite a number of poems from English, which
include those from Milton Shakespeare, Longfellow, Goldsmith, Tennyson,
Ben Jones and etc.
Though not strictly adhering to a translation Lanerolle’s mode of
creation lay on the adaptive presentation of the central experience of
Most of what he had adapted into Sinhala are included in the work
known as Batahira Manikya (Gems of the Occident).
In this work there are 30 poems. V D de Lanerolle had been the first
Sinhala writer to carefully compile Mahadenamutta legends which had gone
through several prints over the years.
The outspokenness and the coldness in the judgement had been,
according to Rodrigo, the salient indelible qualities of Lanerolle. He
gives us several examples where Lanerolle had to undergo harassment
owing to that behaviour.
Nevertheless Lanerolle had not been swayed by the views of other, as
he was one of the most independent creators of his time. Several high
calibred literary scholars such as Munidasa Cumaratunga and Martin
Wickramasinghe had been his close friends.
According to the findings of Rodrigo the writer creator de Lanerolle
had been a prolific writer who had written more than hundred books at a
time when the printing process was at an infant stage.
To his credit de Lanerolle in a sense of ecstasy had marked on
printing and publishing project, which had been a failure. In this
manner the findings of Rodrigo on de Lanerolle are quite exciting and
stimulating for us who grew with him.