Walk without regrets | Daily News


Walk without regrets

Murukan is the protagonist of Ayathurai Santhan’s third novel, Every Journey Ends, which is Godage’s Best English Novel of 2018.
Murukan is the protagonist of Ayathurai Santhan’s third novel, Every Journey Ends, which is Godage’s Best English Novel of 2018.

His name is Murukan. He feels troubled because he could not shut the lid on the intermittently popping up question while he got off one of the three blue and white terminal shuttles that had glided to a stop one behind the other. That was a moment ago. Just alighted from the buses, the passengers of various hues and colours started towards the aircraft that looked like a giant bird perched on the middle of a vast field.

This is Murukan’s expedition that takes off in a faraway land called Yalpanam, which most of us already know as Jaffna. The Moscow-bound youth reaches his destination, which does not seem destined for him. His destination seems elsewhere.

That journey, however, reached some culmination during the literary month which ended its course just yesterday. The judges of the Godage Awards English category unanimously agreed that Murukan’s journey strikes a chord and its creator, Ayathurai Santhan, deserves to be the recipient of the Best English Novel award.

Ayathurai Santhan has already been recognised by the State Literary, Fairway and Godage awards for his previous creative works. As for the Gratiaen award, Santhan has been shortlisted twice. He has also been conferred the Godage Lifetime Achievement award. 2017 saw him receiving the Premchand Fellowship offered by the Sahitya Akademi of India. An engineer turned writer, Santhan is domiciled in Jaffna.

Murukan is the protagonist of his third novel, Every Journey Ends, which is Godage’s chosen English Novel for 2018.

Sri Lanka does not have many Tamil publications. The little of Tamil writers are known to us either because they write in English or they are introduced by the English writers. KS Sivakumaran is one leading English writer who introduces Tamil scribes to the English readership.

Santhan belongs to the rare breed of bilingual writers, striking a balance between Tamil and English.

“I am simply a writer; neither a Tamil writer nor an English writer. Language is just a vehicle. The ideas and feelings are the ones that matter. At times, I feel like jotting down my ideas in Tamil and some other times in English. The selection mostly depends on the theme. For example, I do not see any need to write a story based on the agonies of the war in Tamil, because the readers themselves would have experienced enough,” Santhan muses.

Yet, Santhan would not agree with my observation of the Tamil publications.

“The number of publications in Tamil definitely equal that in English, if not more. When it comes to the Tamil speaking peoples, the Muslims are there too, who prove themselves as better readers and writers,” Santhan explains.

Adds he: “We get down a considerable number of good books and magazines also from Tamil Nadu which too caters the needs of the reading public here. Even some of the local writers are getting published there. More than half the number of my books were published there.”

Tamil and English are both languages used in minority communities. Which writing of Santhan’s gets more attraction: Tamil or English?

“Even if I could say both get the same attraction, I want my works in English to draw more simply because to let know the readers outside life and struggle which they would not have got acquainted with. Although a good number of writers have the good intention of writing about the life in North or East in English, most of the works lack a sense of reality and in this regard, I feel that there is a space to fill.”

Ethnic diversity is a common interest subject among most Sri Lankan English writers. This caucus, at times, is scoffed at, for being a bit biased when they offer a creative analysis to the ethnic diversity.

Santhan reasons why.

“A lack of understanding is one. The understanding of the society, politics, history and even geography, whatever it may be, a writer should be above these divides. No writer can be biased and if biased then he could no more remain a writer. Ethnic diversity has become a common interest subject maybe because they think that it could be a stock to trade in easily.”

Literary critics are parroting about postmodernism which is outdated. Should writers need a label for their writing genres?

“Literature is literature and is spontaneous. Any creative piece takes its own shape by itself. Dividing it into genres and laying down literary theories are merely secondary and artificial. How to differentiate a poem and a short story and a short story and a novella or novel? Theories are meant for literature and literature is not meant for theories,” Santhan remarks.

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