After the oblique references to conflict in poems about the full moon, I thought I would deal direct with conflict this week. The first poem, by Parakrama Kodituwakku, was one of the most remarkable works of art associated with the first insurrection of 1971. I still recall reading it for the first time, in an Anthology of Sri Lankan writing produced by Ranjini Obeysekere and Chitra Fernando soon after I began teaching at Peradeniya. I believe it was the first book I was asked to review, and I think I made special mention of this poem.
The stereotyping by authorities of radical youth, if not subtle, makes clear the dichotomy between traditional expectations and modern aspirations. The translation by Ranjini Obeysekere captures in each stanza the different ways in which authority looks at the unorthodox. The last stanza, with its blend of diffidence and defiance, suggests the dilemma of the new generation; it illustrates too the long intellectual tradition of which the young rebels felt themselves the latest incarnation.