To be well-read | Daily News


To be well-read

Students of English literature might have heard or read two academics- John Sutherland and Dr Jay Stevenson. Recently, I came across two of their books published in 2014 and2007 respectively. The titles of their books are How to be Well Read and English Literature. They are introducing to us the books they have read so that we could benefit from their description and analysis. Please read them if you like.

What I am doing this week is to share my experience in understanding English Literature from a young age when it was all alien for me, although it was in the English medium we all senior students studied in the 1950s.

Way back then in Maddakalappu (Batticaloa) town, we studied at St. Michael’s College and for a short time at what was known as Government College then. From 5th standard up to the Junior School Certificate class, I studied in St Michael’s which was were run by American Jesuits. There were Lankan teachers as well as American priests. My English teacher was Fr.Raywood, an American. He opened my eyes to understand the intricacies of the structure of the English language. Instead of starting with the basic grammar, he at once went on phasing a sentence and then gradually made me understand the pattern of the English language and how to use it effectively. This was when I was in the 5th standard.

In the meantime, at home, my late father Kailayar Sellanainar, who was a Government Clerk then, but passed the Cambridge Exam, had made me read and explained the meaning of words and I had a sufficient stock of vocabulary at my disposal. At that time there were a series of books called New Method Readers 1 to 6. And Radiant Way. Before I attended school, I had completed reading the books mentioned and equipped to attend a school where the medium of instruction was English. Earlier I studied in my mother tongue, Tamil, up to the 5th standard.

As a teenager, I was interested in the Westerns and would relish in enjoying the comic books like Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, Tom Mix, Hopalong Cassidy and the like.

Then I discovered the existence of a Public Library in the town and began to borrow books and read avidly. I was keen to read detective stories only. Sherlock Holmes, Return of Sherlock Holmes, Edgar Wallace, Earle Stanley Gardner and such books.

In the meantime the Commercial Service Radio Ceylon became popular. I used to listen to Mil Sansoni. Gregory Peck, Karl Goonasena, B0b Harvey, Chris Greet, Bartholomeusz, Eardley Pieris, Vernon Corea, Jimmy Bharucha, Dan Duraraj, Shirley Perera, Myrl Walpola(Williams), Leon Belleth, Nihal Bharathi, et al got to know how the English words should be pronounced. I used to like the Home Service too to listen to Myrtle Swan Praia Samaraweera, Mark Anthony Fernando, Dolarine Brohier, Joseph Mather, David Joseph and others.

For my S S C Prep, I went to Government College and was highly impressed by a veteran teacher Bertram Chinaiya who taught me how to appreciate English Literature with his beautiful description of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens. From that day I began to read almost all the classics in English Literature both British and American and continental authors.

So to improve our English we must read avidly and vividly and listen to good speakers of English Wishing the youngsters all the best.

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