Saturday, July 29, 2017

The Village in the Jungle-External Degree Program-Bhiksu University of Sri Lanka-2017

The Village in the Jungle 
The Village in the Jungle is a novel by Leonard Woolf, published in 1913, based on his experiences as a colonial civil servant in British-controlled Ceylon in the early years of the 20th century. It was written from the native rather than the colonial point of view. It is also an influential work of Sri Lankan literature.
Leonard Woolf worked for the British Ceylon Civil Service in Sri Lanka for seven years after graduating from Cambridge University in 1904. He became an Assistant Government Agent in Sri Lanka, dealing with a variety of administrative and judicial issues. The district he was in charge of had a population of 100,000 people. Woolf also kept a comprehensive diary while there, and later said that his experiences in the country led to him adopting liberal political views and becoming an opponent of imperialism. He wrote The Village in the Jungle, his first novel, after he returned from Sri Lanka to England in 1911 while he was courting his future wife Virginia Stephen. He dedicated the novel to her.
The novel describes the lives of a poor family in a small village called Beddagama, (The Village in the Jungle). The people of the village struggle to survive the challenges presented by poverty, disease, superstition, unsympathetic colonial system and the jungle itself. The head of the family is a hunter named Silindu, who has two daughters named Punchi Menika and Hinnihami. After being manipulated by the village authorities and a debt collector, Silindu is put on trial for murder.
 Written two decades before George Orwell's much better known anti-imperialist novel Burmese DaysThe Village in the Jungle has been described by Nick Rankin as "the first novel in English literature to be written from the indigenous point of view rather than the colonizer’s. Victoria Glendinning described it as a foundational novel in the Sri Lankan literary canon, but the novel remains little known in the wider world. In 1980, a Sinhalese language film entitled Beddegama was released based on the novel.
This novel, set in Ceylon, follows the lives of a handful of villagers hacking out a fragile existence in a jungle, where indiscriminate growth, indifferent fate and malevolent neighbours constantly threaten to overwhelm them.
This book deserves more recognition than it's gotten. It is seen as a classic in Sri Lanka.
The novel, set mostly in Sri Lankan jungle, follows the inhabitants of the village of Beddegama. It is atmospheric and gripping. Most of the inhabitants live from hand to mouth and are heavily in debt to the headman, who doles out favours according to his whims. 
Woolf describes the social hierarchy at work within this village, with administrative staff like the headman at the top of the food chain and abusing their power, while folks like Silindu are considered social deviants, and left scrabbling for food. 
The bustle of the town is bewildering to these people, when they do venture forth, and most people consider leaving as a last resort, even when starving to death. 
There are a lot of other themes too, like the importance given to the supernatural, in a world where demons are almost prosaic. In the midst of all their troubles, the villagers cling to religion as their safeguard against these demons. It's also set in the colonial times, so there's a bit of social commentary there too.
The powerlessness of the village women is explored as well- most of the story revolves around Silindu's daughters, who seem to be of the Rodiya caste. 
This book isn't one to go for if you're looking for neat resolutions or happy endings. But, it is an accurate portrayal of the impoverished village. 
Leonard Woolf served in the Ceylon Civil Service in the early 1900s, in Kandy and Jaffna, before he was appointed Assistant Government Agent to Hambantota. Later, he married Virginia Woolf and wrote the novel, The Village in The Jungle around 1913. 

1.   The book is still highly regarded in Sri Lanka apparently, despite almost all the native characters being depicted as either rascally, corrupt or extremely stupid. The story is not a happy one.
2.   A young Leonard Woolf arrived in Ceylon an innocent imperialist, and he left it several years later with a great love of the country and its peoples. His social conscience had sharpened, and he was all too aware that the imperial project was meaningless and harmful in the lives of the Sinhalese, Tamils and Moors. 
3.   This novel is about a Sinhala family living in a small village in the depths of a jungle. It is a hard life, though they have their ways of making it work as best as conditions allow. I suppose I had false notions of jungles being verdant and fruitful and lush, but in many ways  or for much of the year  it seems almost as barren as a desert. 
4.   The story of Village in the Jungle is full of acrimony. It is disgusting to see that human beings are subjected to such levels of torture and misery by their own neighbors and the administrators. Unfortunately, the story of the novel is not unique only to Baddegama. It is the story of the rural Sri Lanka during colonial times. The story of the rural villages is not that different even today with all the advancement of technology and democracy we are supposed to enjoy.
5.   Set in colonial Ceylon, this novel is vivid and readable. While the author clearly illustrates a particular culture and time, that of a rural family in the dry forest area, where life is particularly hard and short, the psychological and social effects of poverty have universal qualities. While the colonial administration system is clearly one of the villains of the book, the gentle innocence of the main characters clearly would be a disadvantage under any system.
6.   An engrossing tale, inspired by the author's time as assistant governor in the east of Sri Lanka. Set in a small village, it concerns the taciturn loner, Silindu, and his motherless twin daughters. Silindu is an outsider in his village, and prefers to spend his time away hunting in the jungle. But, life is hard and desperately poor.
7.   This novel is about a small village called Beddegama located deep in the jungles British Ceylon. The story tells us about the dangers of the jungle and how it slowly consumed the village. Within the village, people struggled to live. Most of the villagers had little to eat and diseases killed off the young, old, and weak. Every villager was living in poverty and owed debt to the village head who was very wealthy. The village was filled with corruption and the villagers were frequently exploited.
8.   Man vs man, man vs nature and man vs himself.

9.   Intrigues between the people, murder and deceit.

Prepared by
D.N. Aloysius
Lecturer in English
Department of Languages
Faculty of Social Sciences and Humanities
Rajarata University of Sri Lanka
Sri Lanka

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