Fictional struggle to survive – A Review of Badraji book by Prof. Sunanda Maendra

Fictional struggle to survive

‘The earth was now far far away, seventy eight light years separated them from the good and beautiful Earth which mankind had made a haven of happy life of inspired creative labour. In the classless society man had created for himself every individual knew his planet so well that there was little left for them to learn.’

– Ivan Yefremov, ‘The Heart of the Serpent (Soviet Science Fiction)

Some years ago I happened to read a book titled as a science fiction written by the above named author. I read with much interest the contents and was not certain how science fiction could lead to facts and various areas of space travelling. Later, some facts were proven and some remained to be unsolved or left as mysteries in the context of space explorations as revealed by such writers as our own Arthur C Clarke and American authors Isaac Asimov and Ray Bradbury in their works.

The very term, science fiction, came to be in the sphere of literature perhaps as a result of the creative artist who speculated certain forthcoming events in their works of varying types of narratives. They go on lurking in the sphere of fantasies and fairy tales. Even in the distant past in the classical context of narratalogy, science fiction could be applied in the context of forecasting future events by prophets and saints.

Conceptual frame

This kind of forecasting is found in several classical texts such as Jatakas, historical chronicles like Mahavamsa, Sinhala doctrinal literary texts like Saddharamaratnavaliya and the great historical mythological texts like Ramayana and Mahabharathaya. In this regard the term science fiction, though not denoted by the same term in the past, the conceptual frame had been in existence is suggestive. Thus then, the creators of the respective works and their descendents may have thought that the best term suggestive for forecast writing ought to be science fiction.

The present work in the context by Bhadraji Jayatilaka (The Galaxiers, Sarasavi 2014) a bilingual writer of much fame envelopes an age old experience of humans, a group of youngsters in Wisconsin in America through their curiosity enter another planet through a spaceship that had descended.

As they are pressed to get into a spaceship and leave to a another planet the concept of curiosity makes wonders where human-like creatures live, but the difference is that they do not talk like humans, instead transfer their thoughts nonverbally in order to communicate. This goes on like a fascinating, but nevertheless a painful experience not only to the human characters moulded by the author, as those who stay in the new planet named as Kaleya, inhabited by a set of creatures akin to humans called Purpuloids.

The survival seems impossible on Kaleya, and this feeling is transferred not only within the characters, but also to the reader who is also gripped into the sensitive narrative line of events, which unfold before him. Jayatilaka shows signs of his erudition as a well versed rediscoverer of space matters and the space events historically brought down the ages. He is quite knowledgeable about what he reveals from the point of view of the space scientist. He makes the reader feel that the surroundings that he creates are reliable and convincible.

Desperate struggle

He makes the reader feel that the humans who had left the earth planet in the first instance are punished for their ignorance in a foreign or alien planet. But he makes the reader feel later that the very humans possess the powers of overcoming the desperate natural events. To achieve the status of coming back to their own planet earth, they have to strategically struggle hard not by means of feeling sorrow, or by weapons, but by means of making use of one’s mind power.

The classic example of a mind power person emerges in the narrative as a fellow captive in Kaleya who comes from China. Named as Tang, he tries to develop mental powers via meditation and other Buddhist spiritual means. He uses the alien spaceship to help the others to come back to the much-loved place of their destination, the earth.

Teng develops a special power via a ‘maze’ which could be regarded as the counterpart of the object of meditation or kamatahana in the local context . Jayatilaka tries his best to open new vistas in the narrative form by creating various types of characters and situations that are made to understand the ‘situational realities’ into which they had fallen due to unforeseen circumstances. In this direction some are visualised as inactive as compared with others who are made to understand the situational events that emerge due to factors they ought to fathom one by one without coming to hasty conclusions.

Strategic living

Five characters consist of two young girls and three young boys who struggle in order to leave the destiny into which they had fallen together with some more in the new planet to which they had gone unnoticed. Even though the narrative is indicated as science fiction the reader gathers various realistic psychological human factors of the realistic frame of living in any part of the globe. This insight may make a young reader develop new vistas on the moulding of his/ her personality and the interactive forces that are interlinked such as the need to plan and the need to develop human resources in the places of one’s own existence.

This also takes us to the insights of strategic living and administrative factors on which one could bring more harm than good if planning goes aloof. Each character that comes in the narrative, though they are young in age, matures gradually as events unfold solving one by one. Though they are five in number they represent a whole gamut of other human beings in the earth planet.

The illustrative sketches by the author, in the text add a new dimension to the narrative structure. I felt that this is the type of book that could emerge into the local Sinhala juvenile literary field.

Quoted from – Daily News of May 06th 2015 []