Friday, April 30, 2010

Importance of seeing through the wall - Dreaming for Jaffna from the eyes of South[Sanjeewa Senarathne]


Importance of seeing through the wall - Dreaming for Jaffna from the eyes of South


Dream about a Jaffna similar to Colombo; or even a developed Jaffna than that. Dream about a Batticaloa competing with Matara or a Vavunia competing with Galle.. Dream about a beautiful country created through those competitions.  To dream about such a country, we have to explore it… learn about it  and know about it..

Sri Lanka as a ground for dilemmas


Sri Lanka was a collapsed country even before the arrival of the Western nations. Later on, the Island was ruled by them for many centuries. After ages, in 1948, it was given the freedom under worst conditions with a bunch of dilemmas so then, there was a devastated country left behind. In this destroyed land, there are abandoned subject zones and areas that have been wounded and entirely lost. If we need to study Sri Lanka deeply, we have to explore the most painful and deepest wounds of it. This conflict which is called as ethnic disharmony or by different names, is a pathetic situation created by the politicians for their own good and for the deadly destruction of the general public. If Colombo is a peak point of this, Jaffna is also a crest at the other end of the country. Hence, studying Jaffna should be considered as a great priority.

What the old generation tells about the country is a myth. Or it’s a trick of them to hide their lack of knowledge. We have to dig for the truth instead of depending on these lies. It is not an easy task, but a huge study consisted with many rounds, collection of several subjects, an intellectual exercise of hundreds of people, a long process that needs to be maintained by researchers. If we can create a sound basis for this work…….?


Do they need anything?


We have to rationally think in this regard. Do they really need anything? Is that a support they need? Or working in partnership? A rebuilding? An exchange of ideas? Or no intervening at all? We should scientifically observe this. This should be an effort starting from an individual level and should be bloomed as a team effort.

Recognize the Gap; and learn …learn and learn…
War is a creation of both North and South but has no way to be seen to find a solution. Yet,  this is an area where we have to necessarily put our efforts with the intention to see a silver line in the long lasted dark cloud. Though we look at the things from our own points of views, we should accept and identify the gap between them and us.
North has its own identity that should not be damaged by any effort inspired by either good or bad will. On the other hand, there are common things to both North and South which we can use as means to create interrelationships and it is necessary to be capable enough to grasp these common things.
It is essential to pay our attention on the nature of relationship that the people in North want to build up between them and South.
It is also required to learn about children, their education, cultural behavior, youth, sports, universities, organizations and associations, agriculture, vocational training etc. Although it is a difficult task for a small group like us, it would be useful to keep these points in mind



What can we do?
(Things to concern if anyone wants to proceed ..)

A pre –preparedness and/or a standard discussion If we can work on literary part of this, such as referring books and other reading materials? Or else, if we can focus on the future rather than the past? If we can create such a deep dream, that would be a great landmark of our effort. We, as the people of South, may need to be well equipped with an assumption and a dream that focuses on our responsibilities and a means to accomplish them.

The old application and a way forward…
We have to have a clear picture about how the right and left political movements, organizations and individuals in South have dealt with the North. We have to carefully check whether we will be able to amend what we are planning to amend. On that basis, each of us needs to have a great dream of a large scale work for Jaffna and North.

Our Strength for Jaffna
If we put any effort to make South a better place, it is essential to release our strengths in many times on the dead grounds of North. That should be with no expectations. As there is a high possibility of being blamed in return, only those who can bear that discredit should be involved in this process.

Without getting trapped by the existing political system
There are many issues which the existing political system fails to answer and that is a situation they have created by themselves. We have to immunize ourselves not to be damaged by that system.

The Global Market trend

Jaffna and the North are rapidly influenced by the global market under precise conditions. We have to be conscious to this aspect as well. It would be helpful for us to realize our role in that context. 

Coordinating with people
After a war existed for three decades, many people from South are eagerly visiting the North; do different things with different attitudes. Hence, basically, we have to explore what we can do for them, depending on our ability and capacity.  Also, South may have to build up relationships with more groups in the North and parallel to that they should find a way to strengthen them. 

We may have to give up showoffs and unrealistic thinking patterns. By now, the dreams that have covered South, (South is not really even a dream, but a set of digital waves that can only be seen and heard.) are rapidly approaching North. We have to be careful not to be the agents of those unrealistic dreams. Basically, what we have to do is, building a deep relationship with those humans. It is essential to keep in the minds that we are not going to cover any arrears. The world is not at its end. We have to meet and recognize the people. That is the most important component of this process.

Finally, it is important to mark that,
Jaffna, too is a city like any other towns in Sri Lanka. It is a zone where humans live; humans like us who can think and feel. It is definitely not a zoo but a society which has made rather advanced steps towards development. Jaffna is not a heritage of South. That “ownership” mentality is something just has created among the Southern citizens in the post-war context. Also, Jaffna is not like South, they have an inherited culture, religious set up and a social life. They are not under-developed and it is not a must to inject our entertaining trends in to that culture or trying to prove that our things are better than what they have. Jaffna is not even like West. It is not a separate or alienated country but a disconnected territory in a small island. Last but not least, there are things they are protecting. Those are their culture and the life style. These two things may be totally different from what we have been practicing. Yet, it is essential to respect those values for they are live and precious for a nation tensed for ages.



By: Sanjeewa Senarathne
[Translated/edited by: Kalpana Ambrose]

Monday, April 19, 2010

The Heart's Eternal Vow - A Review of Gabriel García Márquez's Love in the Time of Cholera

 
The Heart's Eternal Vow

[The New York Times, 10 April 1988]

Love, as Mickey and Sylvia, in their 1956 hit single, remind us, love is strange. As we grow older it gets stranger, until at some point mortality has come well within the frame of our attention, and there we are, suddenly caught between terminal dates while still talking a game of eternity. It's about then that we may begin to regard love songs, romance novels, soap operas and any live teen-age pronouncements at all on the subject of love with an increasingly impatient, not to mention intolerant, ear.

At the same time, where would any of us be without all that romantic infrastructure, without, in fact, just that degree of adolescent, premortal hope? Pretty far out on life's limb, at least. Suppose, then, it were possible, not only to swear love "forever," but actually to follow through on it -- to live a long, full and authentic life based on such a vow, to put one's alloted stake of precious time where one's heart is? This is the extraordinary premise of Gabriel García Márquez's new novel Love in the Time of Cholera, one on which he delivers, and triumphantly.

In the postromantic ebb of the 70's and 80's, with everybody now so wised up and even growing paranoid about love, once the magical buzzword of a generation, it is a daring step for any writer to decide to work in love's vernacular, to take it, with all its folly, imprecision and lapses in taste, at all seriously -- that is, as well worth those higher forms of play that we value in fiction. For García Márquez the step may also be revolutionary. "I think that a novel about love is as valid as any other," he once remarked in a conversation with his friend, the journalist Plinio Apuleyo Mendoza (published as "El Olor de la Guayaba," 1982). "In reality the duty of a writer -- the revolutionary duty, if you like -- is that of writing well."

And -- oh boy -- does he write well. He writes with impassioned control, out of a maniacal serenity: the Garcímárquesian voice we have come to recognize from the other fiction has matured, found and developed new resources, been brought to a level where it can at once be classical and familiar, opalescent and pure, able to praise and curse, laugh and cry, fabulate and sing and when called upon, take off and soar, as in this description of a turn-of-the-century balloon trip:
"From the sky they could see, just as God saw them, the ruins of the very old and heroic city of Cartagena de Indias, the most beautiful in the world, abandoned by its inhabitants because of the sieges of the English and the atrocities of the buccaneers. They saw the walls, still intact, the brambles in the streets, the fortifications devoured by heartsease, the marble palaces and the golden altars and the viceroys rotting with plague inside their armor.

"They flew over the lake dwellings of the Trojas in Cataca, painted in lunatic colors, with pens holding iguanas raised for food and balsam apples and crepe myrtle hanging in the lacustrian gardens. Excited by everyone's shouting, hundreds of naked children plunged into the water, jumping out of windows, jumping from the roofs of the houses and from the canoes that they handled with astonishing skill, and diving like shad to recover the bundles of clothing, the bottles of cough syrup, the beneficent food that the beautiful lady with the feathered hat threw to them from the basket of the balloon."
 
 This novel is also revolutionary in daring to suggest that vows of love made under a presumption of immortality -- youthful idiocy, to some -- may yet be honored, much later in life when we ought to know better, in the face of the undeniable. This is, effectively, to assert the resurrection of the body, today as throughout history an unavoidably revolutionary idea. Through the ever-subversive medium of fiction, García Márquez shows us how it could all plausibly come about, even -- wild hope -- for somebody out here, outside a book, even as inevitably beaten at, bought and resold as we all must have become if only through years of simple residence in the injuring and corruptive world.

Here's what happens. The story takes place between about 1880 and 1930, in a Caribbean seaport city, unnamed but said to be a composite of Cartagena and Barranquilla -- as well, perhaps, as cities of the spirit less officially mapped. Three major characters form a triangle whose hypotenuse is Florentino Ariza, a poet dedicated to love both carnal and transcendent, though his secular fate is with the River Company of the Caribbean and its small fleet of paddle-wheel steamboats. As a young apprentice telegrapher he meets and falls forever in love with Fermina Daza, a "beautiful adolescent with . . . almondsshaped eyes," who walks with a "natural haughtiness . . . her doe's gait making her seem immune to gravity." Though they exchange hardly a hundred words face to face, they carry on a passionate and secret affair entirely by way of letters and telegrams, even after the girl's father has sound out and taken her away on an extended "journey of forgetting." But when she returns, Fermina rejects the lovesick young man after all, and eventually meets and marries instead Dr. Juvenal Urbino who, like the hero of a I9th-century novel, is well born, a sharp dresser, somewhat stuck on himself but a terrific catch nonetheless.

For Florentino, love's creature, this is an agonizing setback, though nothing fatal. Having sworn to love Fermina Daza forever, he settles in to wait for as long as he has to until she's free again. This turns out to be 51 years, 9 months and 4 days later, when suddenly, absurdly, on a Pentecost Sunday around 1930, Dr. Juvenal Urbino dies, chasing a parrot upon mango tree. After the funeral, when everyone else has left, Florentino steps forward with his hat over his heart "Fermina," he declares, "I have waited for this opportunity for more than half a century, to repeat to you once again my vow of eternal fidelity and everlasting love." Shocked and furious, Fermina orders him out of the house. "And don't show your face again for the years of life that are left to you . . . I hope there are very few of them."

The heart's eternal vow has run up against the world's finite terms. The confrontation occurs near the end of the first chapter, which recounts Dr. Urbino's last day on earth and Fermina's first night as a widow. We then flash back 50 years, into the time of cholera. The middle chapters follow the lives of the three characters through the years of the Urbinos' marriage and Florentino Ariza's rise at the River Company, as one century ticks over into the next. The last chapter takes up again where the first left off, with Florentine now, in the face of what many men would consider major rejection, resolutely setting about courting Fermina Daza all over again, doing what he must to win her love.

 In their city, throughout a turbulent half-century, death has proliferated everywhere, both as el cólera, the fatal disease that sweeps through in terrible intermittent epidemics, and as la cólera, defined as choler or anger, which taken to its extreme becomes warfare. Victims of one, in this book, are more than once mistaken for victims of the other. War, "always the same war," is presented here not as the continuation by other means of any politics that can possibly matter, but as a negative force, a plague, whose only meaning is death on a massive scale. Against this dark ground, lives, so precarious, are often more and less conscious projects of resistance, even of sworn opposition, to death. Dr. Urbino, like his father before him, becomes a leader in the battle against the cholera, promoting public health measures obsessively, heroically. Fermina, more conventionally but with as much courage, soldiers on in her chosen role of wife, mother and household manager, maintaining a safe perimeter for her family. Florentino embraces Eros, death's well-known long-time enemy, setting off on a career of seductions that eventually add up to 622 "long term liaisons, apart from . . . countless fleeting adventures," while maintaining, impervious to time, his deeper fidelity, his unquenchable hope for a life with Fermina. At the end he can tell her truthfully -- though she doesn't believe it for a minute -- that he has remained a virgin for her.

So far as this is Florentino's story, in a way his Bildungsroman, we find ourselves, as he earns the suspension of our disbelief, cheering him on, wishing for the success of this stubborn warrior against age and death, and in the name of love. But like the best fictional characters, he insists on his autonomy, refusing to be anything less ambiguous than human. We must take him as he is, pursuing his tomcat destiny out among the streets and lovers' refuges of this city with which he lives on terms of such easy intimacy, carrying with him a potential for disasters from which he remains safe, immunized by a comical but dangerous indifference to consequences that often borders on criminal neglect. The widow Nazaret, one of many widows he is fated to make happy, seduces him during a nightlong bombardment from the cannons of an attacking army outside the city. Ausencia Santander's exquisitely furnished home is burgled of every movable item while she and Florentino are frolicking in bed. A girl he picks up at Carnival time turns out to be a homicidal machete-wielding escapee from the local asylum. Olimpia Zuleta's husband murders her when he sees a vulgar endearment Florentino has been thoughtless enough to write on her body in red paint. His lover's amorality causes not only individual misfortune but ecological destruction as well: as he learns by the end of the book, his River Company's insatiable appetite for firewood to fuel its steamers has wiped out the great forests that once bordered the Magdalena river system, leaving a wasteland where nothing can live. "With his mind clouded by his passion for Fermina Daza he never took the trouble to think about it, and by the time he realized the truth, there was nothing anyone could do except bring in a new river."

In fact, dumb luck has as much to do with getting Florentino through as the intensity or purity of his dream. The author's great affection for this character does not entirely overcome a sly concurrent subversion of the ethic of machismo, of which García Márquez is not especially fond, having described it elsewhere simply as usurpation of the rights of others. Indeed, as we've come to expect from his fiction, it's the women in this story who are stronger, more attuned to reality. When Florentino goes crazy with live, developing symptoms like those of cholera, it is his mother Transito Ariza, who pulls him out of it. His innumerable lecheries are rewarded not so much for any traditional masculine selling points as for his obvious and aching need to be loved. Women go for it. "He is ugly and sad," Fermina Daza's cousin Hildebranda tells her, "but he is all love."

And García Márquez, straight-faced teller of tall tales, is his biographer. At the age of 19, as he has reported, the young writer underwent a literary epiphany on reading the famous opening lines of Kafka's Metamorphosis, in which a man wakes to find himself transformed into a giant insect. "Gosh," exclaimed García Márquez, using in Spanish a word in English we may not, "that's just the way my grandmother used to talk!" And that, he adds is when novels began to interest him. Much of what come [sic] in his work to be called "magical realism" was, as he tells it, simply the presence of that grandmotherly voice.

 
Nevertheless, in this novel we have come a meaningful distance from Macondo, the magical village in One Hundred Years of Solitude where folks routinely sail through the air and the dead remain in everyday conversation with the living: we have descended, perhaps in some way down the same river, all the way downstream, into war and pestilence and urban confusions to the edge of a Caribbean haunted less by individual dead than by a history which has brought so appallingly many down, without ever having sopoken, or having spoken gone unheard, or having been heard, left unrecorded. As revolutionary as writing well is the duty to redeem these silences, a duty García Márquez has here fulfilled with honor and compassion. It would be presumptuous to speak of moving "beyond" One Hundred Years of Solitude but clearly García Márquez has moved somewhere else, not least into deeper awareness of the ways in which, as Florentino comes to learn, "nobody teaches life anything." There are still delightful and stunning moments contrary to fact, still told with the same unblinking humor -- presences at the foot of the bed, an anonymously delivered doll with a curse on it, the sinister parrot, almost a minor character, whose pursuit ends with the death of Dr. Juvenal Urbino. But the predominant claim on the author's attention and energies comes from what is not so contrary to fact, a human consensus about "reality" in which love and the possibility of love's extinction are the indispensable driving forces, and varieties of magic have become, if not quite peripheral, then at least more thoughtfully deployed in the service of an expanded vision, matured, darker than before but no less clement.

It could be argued that this is the only honest way to write about love, that without the darkness and the finitude there might be romance, erotica, social comedy, soap opera -- all genres, by the way, that are well represented in this novel -- but not the Big L. What that seems to require, along with a certain vantage point, a certain level of understanding, is an author's ability to control his own love for his characters, to withhold from the reader the full extent of his caring, in other words not to lapse into drivel.

In translating Love in the Time of Cholera, Edith Grossman has been attentive to this element of discipline, among many nuances of the author's voice to which she is sensitively, imaginatively attuned. My Spanish isn't perfect, but I can tell that she catches admirably and without apparent labor the swing and translucency of his writing, its slang and its classicism, the lyrical stretches and those end-of-sentence zingers he likes to hit us with. It is a faithful and beautiful piece of work.

 There comes a moment, early in his career at the River Company of the Caribbean when Florentino Ariza, unable to write even a simple commercial letter without some kind of romantic poetry creeping in, is discussing the problem with his uncle Leo XII, who owns the company. It's no use, the young man protests -- "Love is the only thing that interests me."

"The trouble," his uncle replies," is that without river navigation, there is no love." For Florentino, this happens to be literally true: the shape of his life is defined by two momentous river voyages, half a century apart. On the first he made his decision to return and live forever in the city of Fermina Daza, to persevere in his love for as long as it might take. On the second, through a desolate landscape, he journeys into love and against time, with Fermina, at last by his side. There is nothing I have read quite like this astonishing final chapter, symphonic, sure in its dynamics and tempo, moving like a riverboat too, its author and pilot, with a lifetime's experience steering us unerringly among hazards of skepticism and mercy, on this river we all know, without whose navigation there is no love and against whose flow the effort to return is never worth a less honorable name than remembrance -- at the very best it results in works that can even return our worn souls to us, among which most certainly belongs Love in the Time of Cholera, this shining and heartbreaking novel.
 
By Thomas Pynchon*

* Thomas Ruggles Pynchon, Jr. (born May 8, 1937) is an American novelist based in New York City and noted for his dense and complex works of fiction. After publishing several short stories in the late 1950s and early 1960s, he began composing the novels for which he is best known: V. (1963), The Crying of Lot 49 (1966), Gravity's Rainbow (1973), and Mason & Dixon (1997).

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Zorba the Greek – Life in a Nutshell - [Dileepa Karunarathna]


Zorba the Greek – Life in a Nutshell

I recently watched this fabulous movie for the second time after about a year or so, which was a great revitalisation, amid examinations and left me with an impetus to write down few rudiment thoughts on the movie. The movie while discussing many auxiliary themes, basically depicts two different philosophies of life or lifestyles which can be adapted by oneself. This basic distinction is illustrated by Zorba who represents the practical man who has got tempered by life itself, and Basil–the boss, who represents theoretical serious man who tries to comprehend life using knowledge rather than experience. And the film highlights lapses of latter in a subtle way. This is not some completely new way of leading one’s life and we can find characters similar to Zorba in maxim Gorki’s stories which were written almost a century ago where we find protagonists who adore this-


-same free lifestyle. But this specifically compares that with the theoretical bookworm which has been treated as the logical counterpart of it. At the beginning of the movie where zorba and basil meets for the first time and have a drink in tavern, basil says that he writes “poetry essays....” where Zorba says “no you think too much that is your trouble.... clever people and grocers, they weigh everything”. Its true that sometimes people like basil tends to ponder a great deal to decide on something while it would be much easy for somebody like zorba to decide on the same thing based on his instincts and experience.

Consequently basil makes his decision and goes to the village with zorba where the remaining part of the story elapses. On the first few days they stay at a ‘hotel’ of a ‘French widow’ whose plight, resembles Katrina Ivanovna in crime and punishment. Her nostalgia of past which might be probably a blend of reality and imagination, and her perception of revolution as people running here and there etc. leave very little for our imagination to envisage what kind of ‘serious politics’ she and her 4 admirals had in bedroom. And yet at the same time we can notice that Zorba can empathize with her rather than basil who cannot stop laughing at her whimsical nature and thoughts, which again shows us a subtle distinction between the practical man and bookworm who relatively lacks experience.

The way men treat the widow (the younger one) in village tavern is horrendous and depicts the callousness of male chauvinism which was rampant in rural communities sometime ago. Zorba: “look at the faces of all these... they all want her... and they hate her because they cannot have her.” Being a lonely widow amid such crowd is not something simple and easy. In that context she needs a man rather than a boy like the student who goes after herself, which again depicts a sensitive and yet important aspect of life that is love alone doesn’t come first because of its purity and sincerity. Social factors have to be taken into the account when making a decision concerning a relationship in such situation not because it’s right, but because of constrains and theoretical limitations of the world and the society in which we live. Even though the student might really love the widow, in a profound way which is different from what naive childish teenage love, she cannot have a life with himself and neither can he have a life with herself, because of those other social factors which come to play. Such ideal situations can only exist in pure communist (collective) societies like Pandora tribe we see in ‘avatar’. But contrary to that in almost all contemporary societies, many other artificial social factors come to play when it comes to relationships. But here it seems like she is disgusting himself or trying to repel himself by using her bitchy shield and despite disgrace, he is still after her which is quite complicated situation which one might interpret as masochism. And at the same time this is not depressive or pessimistic movie since basil and zorba who can be idealised as a practical man who has been tempered by experiences he has gained, takes reasonable stance if not correct one, in most of the cases like this.

We can see that basil fails to do any labour work in the mine and the director pokes fun at him in the scene where he attempts to carry a log to the mine, in a funny way, and Zorba asks him to go back to his papers for god’s sake. We can also see there that Zorba is more fluent and able to deal with petite bourgeois villagers than basil. When Zorba shouts at villagers for being cowards and leaving their axes inside the mine which costs a lot of money, basil is glad that nobody was hurt and ask zorba to give workmen a day off, where Zorba says, "boss you better makeup your mind, are you or are you not a gosh-darn capitalist?”

The director brings out Zorba's attitude about war or more precisely, the futility of war in subsequent dialogue between him and basil where Zorba articulates his opinion about fights and wars based on race or nationality and also the nature of war and horrendous things which take place in a war. The director compares and contrasts Zorba's matured experienced worldview which realised the futility of war, with Basils’ simplistic attitude where he asks "what is so stupid about fighting for your country?"

"i have done things for my country, i have killed, burned villages, raped women... and why?... because they were turks of bulgarians. thats the rotten damn fool i was. now i look at a man, any man... and say he is good or bad. what do i care if he is greek or turk? as i get older i wouls stopp asking that. good or bad whats the difference? they endup in the same way... food for worms...."

But we can see that Zorba’s stance regarding women is quite outdated. Here women are depicted as helpless creatures who usually have to take refuge of men and therefore it’s a sin to betray them. The essence of idea is that women are feeble set of people which is proven to be wrong in subsequent years. This idea on women is brought out using the French widow with whom Zorba falls in love. She is presented as a very delicate woman who lives in her past glamorous days and laments about the grace she has lost in the natural aging process, where we know that women cannot be simplified to such model and is capable of getting involved in social movements, and making a productive contribution to social evolution, rather than being victims of despotic men and pleading them not to forget them, and lament telling that men are leaving them which implies that without men they cannot live or it make them helpless. And at the same time she can be considered as a general example of a woman who has not saturated of love in a real way and therefore, lives in dreams trying to experience it. Her delicate feelings are nicely brought out everywhere in this movie. Especially when she comes running to Basil’s place after getting to know that Zorba has sent a letter, where basil shams reading something else rather than the real letter of Zorba.

And we can see a very good example of the dignity of a man and the way he behaves or is supposed to behave as a layman, in zorba's visit to the city and getting insulted by a young harlot waitress as grandpa, telling that she is only doing her job and later getting attracted to zorba's money. and here we cannot with mathematical certainty or exactness, say what is the correct or incorrect way of behaving and judge zorba, but just can say that its purely realistic and natural and therefore can be justified as an attempt to show a certain aspect of reality to the reader, rather than judging and giving interpretations about deeds of character whether those are right or wrong, which is the essence of any form of artistic expression.

Basil’s inner conflict is quite nicely shown in that night when he finally decides to go to the young widow who is living in the village. He tries to dance like Zorba to get relaxed and decide on what he is going to do next. And there also we can see how women have been shown in conventional delicate and emotionally vulnerable way. Her behaviour in that night implies all this in a subtle way. We can see the callousness of raw primitive conservative ideology about women which prevailed there, and the scale of oppression and discrimination they have undergone, in subsequent scenes. All the villagers who failed to conquer her as a woman, taunt the student who is in love with her when they got a glimpse of Basil entering to widow’s house, which finally provokes the student to get drowned himself in sea. And the same people who espoused this calamity by provoking the student, ridicule and insult her by throwing stones at her house on their way to village from sea carrying the corpse of student.

The ruthless disgusting way they kill the widow for no reason at all, is hard to explain using words. The murder taking place while the funeral mass is going on in the church, the killer marking cross before assassination, all show how religion has been shrewdly associated with atrocious discriminations and horrendous customs. And we can see that Zorba again questions the use of books and knowledge which cannot provide answers (give solutions in more profound sense since its those so called educated and knowledgeable elite clique is supposed to find solutions for all kinds of social issues discriminations in a scholarly way which is repeatedly proven to be unsuccessful) for these questions and explain things happen in the society with reasons.

Zorba is the protagonist and idol around whom the story evolves and basil depicts the imperfect ordinary man who has books but yet constrained by social conditioning and various other things and therefore is different from the free-spirited Zorba who learnt things and has comprehended realities by his own experience.

The way villagers rob everything of the French widow when she is in deathbed, is quiet lousy. And we are further informed that there will be no funeral for the foreigner and the priests won’t bury her like anybody else.

The last misfortune which happens in the movie where their plan to ferry logs down the hill using cables fails displacing entire mechanism, again brings the main theme back to the play. Throughout the whole movie, we can see that zorba and basil has been compared and contrasted with each other, by pointing out traits of each of them throughout various scenes all where Zorba's free-spirited nature has been contrasted with basil who is disciplined, well ordered and tamed by social norms etc... , though he is a good man of justice and moral values with pure heart. Zorba correctly state all these in the end as, “boss you have got everything except, madness... a man need a little madness or else he never dares cut the rope and be free..." which is true to a great extent. The culmination of whole story is when basil realise zorba's point and acknowledge it which might had been a gradual process which was happening since they met each other and it has ultimately made him able to laugh at the crash (destruction of their apparatus) which he might have considered as a personal catastrophe which ruined all his plans, from practical man's point of view. Yet the moral of the theme is that those incidents and catastrophes are unavoidable, which is also a core tenet in Buddhism and other similar philosophies, and therefore what we can do is to laugh and live the life without enduring it by artificial agony created by mind, with the help of the idea of possession, ownership, and unrealised expectations. It is indeed a very high status any layman can achieve that is being able to dance in the rain despite circumstances which are more than enough to lead him to misery, despair and depression.

Martin Wickramasinghe also presented similar ideas which idolises practical man in village rather than educated man. But he was not clear about, if he wasn’t unaware of, the petite bourgeois nature of the villagers and things like hypocrisy associated in such society. Contrary to the villagers, Zorba is a bohemian worker who has travelled all over the world, been to America, has participated in battles in war, same as characters we find in Gorki’s stories.

The movie as a whole, questions the established paradigm of success where relentless pursuit of ‘success’ is adored and considered a must to survive in this rat race of life and adherence to the established criteria against which we measure success. We can see that a free-sprited person like Zorba can be happier and therefore can be considered more successful than conventional (or established) model of success. But again the personal objectives and obligations bestowed on a person from a social background like that of basil, all results in him being this kind of prudent sensible person contrary to free sprited Zorba. In other hand Zorba enjoys simple pleasures like dolphins, dancing etc... he cannot understand why Basil doesn’t like dolphins(at the beginning of the movie) which implies that Basil has become a person who is not capable of enjoying such simple things in life because of books and his conventional practical lifestyle.

The movie as a whole carries a simple yet profound insight on life while discussing a variety of themes and provides a novel way of looking at life for those who are lost in the mayhem of contemporary society and is searching for harmony and happiness.


Dileepa Karunarathna
13.02.2010
Torrents