The beginning of the 19th century marks a turning point in Sinhalese literature, which from this time on takes on a secular character and opens up to new genres such as the novel, short story and compositions in free verse. With the British domination of the country, during the 19th and the first half of the 20th century (in 1948 it gained independence within the Commonwealth), political, economic and social changes are produced on the island, which constitute the historical framework. which is the backdrop to modern literature. The birth of an elite permeated with Western culture and the spread of the English language are two dominant factors of this picture. This evolutionary process had already begun in the 19th century with the introduction by the Dutch of the press, which allowed the single individual to directly enjoy the text, as opposed to classical literature which instead destined its compositions to a more or less audience. vast; therefore, an individual literary style is born, quite different from the declamatory one of classical literature. This innovative technical process had, on the one hand, increased the circulation of newspapers and magazines in Sinhala, creating a new world of readers, and on the other hand, gave rise to a penetrating process of collective information. At the same time, the literary activity, carried out mainly by Christian writers, and the considerable number of Sinhalese translations of Western works had helped to diversify the tastes and interests of readers. The first attempts at narrative have in LI De Silva and H. Kannangara, authors respectively of Pavul deka (1866-83, “The two families”) and Grāma Pravṛttiyak (1876, “A village history”) who praise the Christian virtues, their most significant representatives. The novel is used by Buddhist nationalists essentially for reforming purposes: as in the case of P. Sirisena (1875-1946), reformer, as well as novelist, poet and journalist, author of Vāsanāvanta vivāhaya hevat Jayatissa saha Rosalin (1904, ” The happy marriage or Jayatissa and Rosalin “), Taruṇiyakagē prēmaya (1916,” The love of a girl “), Apaṭa vecca dē (1918,” What happened to us “), Atbhuta āgantukayā (1928,” The strange visitor “),(“The exploits of Vikramapāla”), which under this general title collects a series of detective novels.
Instead, it responds to a different purpose, which is to ” amuse ” the reader with his novels, WA Silva (1892-1957). A fruitful author, in his writings he deals above all with love and sensational intrigues; among his best known works we mention: Siriyālatā hevat anātha taruṇi (1909, “Siriyālatā or the orphan”); Lakshmī hevat nonäsena räjini (1922, “Lakshmī or the immortal queen”); Kälāhaňda (1933, “The moon of the jungle: the unknown beauty”). No less well known are his three historical novels: Daivayōgaya (1936, “The intervention of fate”); Sunētrā nohot avicāra samaya (1936, “Sunetra or the reign of terror”), Vijayabā kollaya (1938, “The Murder of Vijayabāhu”). The novel Radaḷa piḷiruva (1939, “The puppet Lord”) has a clear satirical intent towards the feudal lordship.
However, the first novels of authentic literary value are due to MM Wickremasinghe (1890-1976), an attentive interpreter of traditional Sinhalese culture. Leela, his first novel, dates back to 1914. It was followed by Miriṅguva (1925, “The mirage”, inspired by Anna Karenina by Tolstoy) and three novels that have as their background the transformations that took place in the traditional society of Sri Lanka: Gamperaliya (1944 , “The changing village”), from which director LJ Peiris drew the subject for a film (1964); Yugāntaya (1949, “The end of the universe”); Kaliyugaya (1957, “The Kali Era”). His masterpiece, however, is Virāgaya (1956, “The Detachment”). It should be remembered that Wickremasinghe is also considered the pioneer of literary criticism for his attempt to achieve a synthesis between Eastern and Western literary principles.
Among contemporary authors the figure of ER Sarachchandra (b. 1914), university professor, critic, essayist, novelist and screenwriter, predominates. He has translated three of his novels into English: Heṭa eccara kaḷuvara nǟ (1975; Curfew and a full moon, 1978), which narrates the uprising in Sri Lanka in 1971, Maḷagiya act (1959, “The deceased”) and Maḷavungē avurudu dā (1965, “The anniversary of the dead”), gathered under the comprehensive title of Foam upon the stream (1987). Based on his stay in Paris, where he was ambassador from 1974 to 1977, is the novel With the begging bowl (1986). However, his most interesting works are those of the theatrical genre. We should also remember the novelists G. Amarasekera (b. 1929), author of Yaḷi upannemi (1960, “The second life”) whose rather licentious content caused a certain sensation; and Sri Lanka Gunasinghe (b. 1931), author of a single novel: Hevanälla (1960, “The Shadow”) which recalls, in style, The Stranger by A. Camus, and the popular K. Jayatilaka and MS Ratnayaka. In the field of short stories influenced by the works of G. de Maupassant and A. Cecov, the following distinguished themselves: WA Silva, MM Wickremasinghe, ER Sarachchandra, G. Amarasekera, H. Munidasa, TGW De Silva and GB Senanayake (1913-1985).
It is from the 19th century that nāḍagam developed, a rudimentary theatrical form of Catholic and Tamil inspiration that immediately became popular. P. Si · n · no is the author of about ten theatrical compositions of this type. C. Don B. Jayawira Bandara (1852-1921, J. De Silva (1887-1922) are instead authors of nūrtiya, a form of operetta inspired by the musical theater of the Parsi, which established itself around the end of the 19th century. Noteworthy is the work of ER Sarachchandra that, having adapted to the Sinhalese a large number of Western and Russian works, will give birth to a new style of music and choreography. Among the works belonging to this style are to remember Maname (1956) the whose content is inspired by Cradle Dhanuggaha Jātaka and whose shape follows the Japanese Nō and Kabuki theater. The masterpiece, however, is represented by Siṃhabahu (1961, “He who has the strength of a lion” or “The terrible”), based on the chronicle of the Mahāvaṃsa and inspired by the origin of the Sinhalese race.
According to RELATIONSHIPSPLUS, modern poetry is represented by four different currents: traditionalists, purists, modernists and ultra-modernists.
The first brings together the poets linked to the most ancient ” tradition ”, both in terms of themes and in terms of images and language. Among the most renowned representatives of this current are: A. Rajakaruna (1885-1957); GH Perera (1896-1948); P. Sirisena; Sri Lanka Mahinda (1902-1951); KH De Silva (1907-1976) and BH Amarasena (1910-1951).
The purist current derives its name from the fact that its representatives use an elegant and artificial language; among these are M. Kumaratunga (1887-1944) and R. Tennakoon (1890-1964).
The modern current is characterized by the use of common language and the constant search for new images drawn from everyday life and experiences. Among its best known representatives are: Sri Lanka Chandrasiri, M. Jayakody, MH Kudaligama, W. Kumaragama, P. Malalgoda, Ś.C. Manawasinghe, Sri Lanka Palansooriya, PB Alwis Perera, MK Prematileke and M. Sekera. The ultra-modern current brings together those poets who have tried to break away completely from tradition; among these the names of G. Amarasekera, Sri Lanka Gunasinghe, GB Senanayake emerge. The poets of the first three currents almost systematically employ traditional rhythmic quatrains, while the ultramodern ones preferably employ free verses embellishing them with refined tonal variations.