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Veteran writer, poet Reggie Siriwardene dies

[TamilNet, Friday, 17 December 2004, 05:44 GMT]
Mr.Reggie Siriwardene, well-known journalist, social analyst, poet and playwright and who fought for the protection of Human Rights passed away peacefully at the age of 82 in Colombo Wednesday. His funeral was held Thursday evening at Kanatte cemetery amid large gathering of all walks of life. Several leading journalists and educationists condoled his demise as an irreparable loss. He has authored a well-documented analysis that describes the damage done to ethnic relations by government produced school textbooks in Sri Lanka

Mr. Reggie SiriwardeneMr.Reggie Siriwardene wrote several analytical articles on the discrimination against Tamils in Sinhala and English medium textbooks.

He donated his home library to rebuild the Jaffna Public Library after hoodlum brought down to Jaffna from Colombo, sources said, burnt it down in 1981.

His plays were acclaimed of high standard and were staged abroad several times, sources said.

"Mr.Reggie Siriwardene is a remarkable man of letters who has recently begun writing original poetry, his technique benefiting from his successful efforts of translating poetry from several languages and striving 'to be faithful to the principles of brevity, lucidity and form' learnt from the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova. He reveals his sensitivity to the tragic situation in which the country, and indeed civilization, is placed in our violent era in 'Waiting for the Soldier' and 'Report from the Front', which reflects his love of Pushkin's style, both in the fine balancing of freedom and formal grace and in the equipoise of seriousness and wit," said Dr.D.C.R.A.Goonetilleke, eminent educationist in his introduction to the Penguin New Writing in Sri Lanka.

"I know of only a few dedicated and committed enthusiasts like Reggie Siriwardene who will learn a language in order to get to the original. He taught himself Russian so he could read his beloved Pushkin in the original. But even he must have come to Pushkin initially in translation," said Ms Ranjini Obeyesekere in her foreword to the book " A Lankan Mosaic", a compilation of translations of Sinhala and Tamil short stories.

One of the poems written by Mr.Reggie Siriwardene on the topic "Waiting for the Soldier" follows: - (four line stanzas)

After the Roman army took Syracuse,
a soldier, in the midst of looting and raping,
stopped when he saw a Greek bent over
figures inscribed in the sand. Gaping,

the Roman watched his strange absorption
in that magic of lines and circles. He
(not looking up at the soldier) said," Move
With your shadow there it's hard to see"

The soldier hit him on the head, and so
Archimedes died. If, then, today
I turn more and more to this ordered world
of sixty four squares, to the mimic play

of forces in a field where nobody bleeds;
where in the intervals of the game my silent friend
won't annoy me by spouting racist drivel
or Marxist simplicities; if the chief end
of life at present seems to find
an infallible answer to the French Defence
(my opponent's favourite opening ), don't say
I am escaping. In a world without sense

one must look for meaning wherever one
can find it-if only, perhaps, for a day
or two. I know the Roman soldier-
in one shape or another-is on the way.


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