Island, 28 November 2011, where the title is “D.B. Dhanapala’s “Among Those Present’’ re-published in a labour of love”
In a labour of love, nearly 50 years after it was first published, D.B. Dhanapala’s son, D.B. Nihalsingha, has brought out a second edition of his father’s much-loved book “Among Those Present” which has acquired a collector’s imprimatur.
The book was a collection of pen portraits of notables of the times that Dhanapala wrote for the Blue Page of the Ceylon Daily News between 1937 and 1939 under the pen name of Janus.
Like the Roman God, the two-faced Janus, Dhanapala’s profiles were equally double edged, juxtaposing the known facts with the unknown facets of Ceylonese personalities of the day.
Dhanapala who was born in the South of the country and educated in Sinhala at Mahinda College, Galle, learned his English alphabet when he was 14-years old. Later he went to Allahabad University, India, where he was awarded an MA in English Literature at the age of 26.
Herbert Hulugalle invited him to write for the Ceylon Daily News after his contributions to the Indian Press were noticed here.
A note in the back cover of the new edition of Among Those Present says although Dhanapala’s Sinhala writing was neither prolific nor unique, he attained an almost cult status for his writing in the Daily News.
Nonetheless, this outstanding writer in English was the doyen of Sinhala journalism who served as Chief Editor of the Lankadeepa which broke new ground by becoming the country’s first Sinhala daily which was not a translation of an English newspaper.
He was also the founder of the Dawasa Group of Newspapers published by M.D. Gunasena & Company under the name and style of Independent Newspapers of Ceylon Limited challenging the supremacy of Lake House during the waning years of the Times of Ceylon.
Dhanapala’s pen portraits were of a mix of people ranging from Anagarika Dharmapala to D.S. and Dudley Senanayake, G.P. Malalalasekara, Oliver Goonetilleke, Herbert Hulugalle, John Kotelawela, Nicholas Attygalle, L.H. Mettananda, S.W.R.D. Bandaranaike and many more. The 22 essays include profiles of others like Sirima Bandaranaike, Victor Dhanapala, Yakkaduve Thero, Nittavela Gunaya and Ediriweera Sarachchandra.
Nihalsingha says that hardly had a year passed since his father’s death when he had not been asked when Among Those Present would be re-published. The few copies he had were borrowed (and never returned!) and he had only just one copy left.
“The memory of his style and of his writing while faded did not die – the request for the re-print of the book, surprisingly, have grown not lessened,” Nihalsingha has said in an explanatory note. Some fine pencil-sketched portraits of the subjects of the profiles are included in this book which is not only a `must read’ but a `must own’ publication priced at Rs.350 in hard cover.
Copies will be available at well known bookshops including Lake House, Vijitha Yapa and Sarasavi Bookshops.
D. B. Dhanapala (1964). Buddhist Paintings : From Shrines and Temples In Ceylon (1st ed.). The New American Library Of World Literature. Retrieved 10 February 2017.
D. B. Dhanapala (1957). The Story of Sinhalese painting. Saman Press. Retrieved 10 February 2017.