A voyage into the darkest depths of human mind

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First and Foremost I must say as the preamble to my comment indicates that this is not an exhaustive review of the Novel Magiya by Ranjith Kuruppu. It is left to a competent critic as I am not a scholar in the field of arts and literature. This is only a personal reflection on the novel and its author.

On the 15th day of February 2022 Ranjith walked into my residence, with his pleasing wife Agnes, carrying a copy of the Novel, Magiya and presented it to me with a warm gesture.

His arrival and presence inspired in me mixed feelings. This is Ranjith whom I met for the first time, five decades ago, at the remote hamlet called Pahalegama in the district of Gampaha. He was in his blooming youth, was wearing a pair of jack boots having a cowboy type jacket over his shirt and in tight jeans, a typical fanatic of Hindi songs. Whilst reading the novel it shocked my conscience; is this a creation of Ranjith? My afterthought queried. Yes! This is the wonderful creation of Ranjith. No wonder, Ranjith turned a Trotskyite. My shock subdued.

After our meeting, Ranjith turned a different man. He discarded his jack boots having replaced with bathroom slippers. Cowboy jacket and tight jeans abandoned, wearing rag-shaded shirt over the worn out baggy trouser, his unshaven beard now covering his once clean face.

Ranjith was seen with his comrades, frequently in party locals discussing and arguing on problems of building a revolutionary party and problems of world revolution and often seen selling Kamkaru Mawatha and Tharuna Satana; two papers of ‘Revolutionary Communist League’ the Sri Lankan section of the fourth international. Ranjith often carried with him, I mean metaphorically, three volumes of Das Capital, Lenin on Dialectical Materialism, The Communist Manifesto and Ten Days that Shook the World – not to mention Andre’s Strait is the Gate, D.H. Lawrence’s Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Doctor Zhivago – the emotional novel depicting the personal crisis of an intellectual whose world crumbled under the October Revolution. All these books had a persuasive and irresistible impact on Ranjith’s life.

As times passed Ranjith’s daydream of a proletariat revolution was doomed and with the desperate memories of an unaccomplished dream, Ranjith embarked on an adventurous journey from the remote village in Pahalegama by the side of an ancient Buddhist temple, to the sophisticated city Bonn along the famous Silk Route.

In Germany at Hoag Garden Park in front of the University, Ranjith unexpectedly and ironically, was destined to meet the German Blonde Agnes. She revolutionised the life and fate of Ranjith, a man whose dream was to revolutionise the capitalist world including Germany, through a wave of proletariat uprisings in the western world. The tragedy of the fate of a Trotskyite turned a novelist at last.

Magiya appears to me as the logical and emotional culmination of his vast experiences including memories of abandoned dreams, memories of sad times of trials and tribulations, shocks in moments of conflicts, and their irresistible and painful reconciliations, victories, and defeats.

Magiya therefore, I am inclined to apprehend as the well-ripen fruit of decisive voyage into the dark depths of human mind – conscious and unconscious, its intervention with mighty institutions of economic, social, religious and political composition, and its intervention with individuals – radical or conventional, orthodox or unorthodox.

Finally, the novel Magiya through its pages metaphorically turns into a stage or to put it differently, portrays alive stage where its undefined message is conveyed and then enacts through Devan, Anabella, Yasodara, Rehan, and others, and in the end it presents to the reader a powerful and a poetic expression of a sad and an eventful human drama – a unique combination of reality and fiction.

 The picturesque symbols which are creatively used by the author have the effect of stimulating the imaginative pulses of the reader, to form fascinating sequences of images of events and of its moving characters, whilst going through the pages of the novel. The bird with multi-coloured feathers seen often by Rehan on the statue erected on Anabella’s grave Rehan thought was the soul of Devan who died and was buried in his motherland that has taken the form of a bird. This mystic bird provokes mystic feelings and confusion in Rehan’s mind. It reminds her of an inseparable human bond tied together two souls of a man and a woman, from two different countries and two different civilisations, thousand miles away from each other; which even the cold death could not separate.

The graphic description by the author of this mystic sequence and of the grave of Anabella erected in memory of a great woman and of a beloved mother, on the top of a hill, below which the river Rine flows through its golden valley, takes the reader to a fascinating fairyland. In the same tenor, yet conversely the reality of horrors of death and its sad feeling of departure of loved ones and impermanence of life, creep into the mind of the reader. Thus this curious paradox of life is hinted by the author, whilst it shocks the conscience of the reader.

I conclude that Magiya is a unique and a brave literary creation worthy of highest appreciation.

By Terrence Wickramasinghe