Life and Works of Martin Wickramasinghe

Martin Wickramasinghe was a novelist from Sri Lanka. He was born in the village of Koggala in 1890. When he was five he learned the Sinhala alphabet and the Devaganari script, being able to recite large portions of the Hitopadesha (a Sanskrit fables). He attended a vernacular school until 1897, after which he was sent to a school in Galle, where he became proficient in English and Latin. The main focus of his work was the culture and life of his country, exploring and applying modern knowledge in natural and social sciences, literature, linguistics, the arts, philosophy, education, and Buddhism and comparative religion to break through the surface of petty nationalism, and guide readers to the deep rooted common national identity that lies in the folk life and Sri Lanka culture.

Some of Martin Wickramasinghe bibliography's better known titles include Gamperaliya (The Transformation of a Village), published in 1944 and which depicts the impact of modernization on traditional village life; Madol Doova, a children's novel published in 1947 that narrates the adventures of main character Upali Giniwella and his friends; Yuganthaya (The End of an Era), the second part of a trilogy started with Gamperaliya and followed by Kaliyugaya (Age of Darkness), published in 1957. All of these novels were made into movies directed by fellow countryman Lester James Peries. Other works are Leela (his opera prima, 1914), Soma (1920), Iranganie (1923), Seetha (1923), Miringu Diya (Mirage, 1925), Unmada Chithra (1929), Rohinmi (1929), Viragaya (Devoid of Passions, 1956), Karuvala Gedara (House of Shadows, 1963), and Bavatharanaya (Siddhartha's Quest, 1973).

One of Martin Wickramasinghe biography highlights is how he was bestowed several honors and awards, such as membership of the Order of the British Empire, best newspaper article of the year (The fall of the Brahmin Class, 1956), Don Pedric Award for the best novel of the year (1957), an honorary PhD by the Vidyodaya University, a Doctorate in Letters (DLitt) by the University of Ceylon, an UNESCO award, a DLitt by the Vidyalankara University, a DLitt by the University of Ceylon, and the first presidential award for literature.

His work, however, was not confined within the realms of fiction and novels. He also wrote several articles and non-fiction books, as well as being a literary critic. He also was a bookkeeper, part of the editorial staff of national newspapers Dinamina and Lakmina, member of the National Languages Commission, among many other occupations. He is considered not only one of the foremost writers in the history of Sri Lanka, but he has also been internationally recognized, and his works have been translated into English, Hindi, Tamil, Russian, Chinese, Romanian, Dutch, German, French and Japanese. Martin Wickramasinghe passed away on the 23rd of July of 1976, but his legacy has lived on and will continue to thrive as new generations of readers discover his novels.

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