Madol Doova translated as Mangrove Island, written and set in rural Sri Lanka, is a sequence of escapades of a young boy, Upali, accompanied with his friend Jinna.
Upali’s mother passes away, and his mischievous antics prove unbearable to his father and step mother. He is sent away to board at his headmaster’s house with hopes of being tamed, but creates further havoc. His ever flowing energy cannot be tolerated by anyone so he leaves home. His friend Jinna follows him to Madol Doova. The story is an account of the adventures they have there, and how Upali the prankster matures and shows heroic stature in both the eyes of the reader and those who couldn’t in his youth tolerate him.
To stress just how much I love this book, I must let you know that I’ve been re reading it at least once a year ever since I first came into possession of it back in Year 4 and every time its as lively and engaging as the first time I read it!
The amazingly descriptive text leaves not one stone unturned about the Sri Lankan culture. There is promise of an all-round Sri Lankan experience and the reader will end this tale visibly more knowledgeable about the country. The language of the narration is simple but the story is at a lively pace and you will find yourself in an adventure with every turn of the page.
Though the book is a mere 130 pages long, Mr. Wickramasinghe has successfully painted the country in its true colours of yellow orange and green accompanied by scenes and anecdotes of paddy fields, fishermen, tea and often superstition. The magic of the book goes beyond the spirits Upali encounters, all the way to the readers. I feel regardless of where you live or where Upali comes from, his trials, his emotions and the pickles he gets himself into are surprisingly relatable and reaches beyond cultures. There is something for everyone.
We find how the two boys fend for themselves during a period when such a thing was unimaginable. Today this seems an almost prophetic calling. The resourcefulness they show is an outlet to their mischievous nature, with the experience maturing them beyond what the people expect of them. His boyish sense of adventure and curiosity that was once an untamed burden for his family and the villagers, makes for a lively story for us the readers. There is always his never ceasing energy and spirit making Madol Doova a delightful account of a prankster showing courage and quickness of spirit when faced with adversity.
The book has been read, re read and cherished by generations of Lankan readers in its original language Sinhala. Since its first publications in 1947, it has been quickly translated to many other languages including English, Chinese and Russian and been continued to be loved around the world.
To those who are unfamiliar with Sinhalese terminology and local customs, though everything is very well explained, I’d recommend reading with a dictionary. The true beauty of the writing is in the clever yet simple weaving in of its words. I’ll post the glossary of the book for those of you who are curious to give the book a try.
About the Author
Martin Wickramasinghe is one of Sri Lanka’s greatest authors. He began his career at age 13 and continued until he was 86 years old. His works being penned in both the English and Sinhala languages and thereafter being translated to many others languages. His stories outline simple rural Sri Lankan lives yet with a powerful human understanding. In his works he explores and applies modern knowledge on natural and social sciences, literature, philosophy and religion.
I know that the above book may not be as mainstream and modern as the works of fiction one reads today, but I thought its time my blog gives exposure to some literature from where I come from. Please do let me know if you’d like to see more such reviews of Lankan literature 🙂