The Sunset of Tissa Abeysekara in Bringing Tony Home


After a long period of a tiring day of exercise, the sun sets at the West in the color of crimson. Indeed, it is a natural phenomenon which no force can deny. Though it is a beautiful period of time, along with it comes, the nostalgic feeling of departure of the day that gives way to the darkness. 


In literature, sunset is a metaphor to a transitory period of time: in life, it symbolizes the old age. In the first part of the novel, Tissa Abeysekara gives a picture of his transitory period of time which is built upon his forty years of life experience. That by gone period of time has been engraved in his mind which the reader can view how his past acts like a part of his life. This mesmerized memory he had as a young child further nourished his cinematic and written masterpieces.

However, the reader can feel how his feeling of nostalgia haunts his mind time to time. It is a fact that, the happy memories give contentment to a person while the feelings of sadness or departure keep on haunting the mind of that very person. So he called this riddle as life and brought it into his creations. He further brings in the transformation of the background of the city where he was born. He seems to be worried about the industrialization which swept away the natural beauty of the village he was born. It is worthwhile to glimpse into the life of Tissa Abeysekara to know the novel best.

Tissa Ananda Abeysekera was born in Maharagama, a railroad town 12 miles southeast of Colombo. He grew up in his ancestral house, Greenlands in Havelock Town, Colombo. Tissa's father declared bankruptcy in 1949. Due to poor health, Tissa was not sent to school until age 11. Tutored at home at first, he had his formal education at Dharmapala Vidyalaya in Pannipitiya.

Tissa was an artist, who saw society through an artistic lens, yet equally felt the distress that humans did undergo in this riddle called life. He clutched every day attributes in life, and transformed them into a work of everlasting art, either in the form of literature that carried great weight in printed form, or images in motion.

Abeysekara died on 18 April 2009, at Colombo National Hospital after having been admitted for a heart condition. The BBC stated: "The void that he has left can only be understood if one looks at a washed away painting and understands and realizes that its beauty can never be glorified or recreated again." He shall march into history as one of the “greatest intellectuals of our times,” and the knowledge he left behind will profit many a generation, including the yet unborn.

The first part of the novel, The Sunset is about the life of Tissa Abeysekara as an old person and a professional film-maker. His tele drama ‘Pitagamkarayo’ (The outsiders) acts as a portal that connects his past and present lives at the beginning of the chapter. The shooting of the final scene of the tele drama is kept parallel to his drive back home. Here he clearly juxtaposes the past with the present; the differences are very clearly outlined of the by gone era of 1950’s and 1990’s as well as it is a clear illustration between the village he used to live and the urban, industrialized town he lives in at present.

As he further explains, this story is the essence of his childhood memories and experiences: “which provided me with the dramatic and emotional backdrop for the narrative in ‘Pitagamkarayo’.”  It awakens the childhood memory of: his journey through the beautiful paddy fields with Tony, bringing it back home, the memory that half-slept in his mind like a sweet-nostalgic dream. He drowsily compares his change within himself and the fast-changing outside world which makes him feel nostalgic of his life:

“But as I drove home I felt disoriented, like when coming out of a coma. ‘Pitagamkarayo’, like a drug had got into my bloodstream, and both within and without I was in a twilight zone.”

The understanding of one’s old age and unfulfilled dreams of his youth which can never be recovered is a feeling that is unexplainable. The writer’s longing to go back to his young age and realization of his inability to do so is vividly portrayed through the above utterances.

We can draw parallel to his family background and the reasons behind the father’s bankruptcy as we read the latter part of the first part of the novel. As their economic conditions and as the narrator is too old, Tissa Abeysekara remembers that he was unable to resist the change in his life. They had to change the location where they used to live which led he and his friendly, loyal dog Tony to get separated. This is one of the vacuum in his by gone past that he still is unable to fill, leaving a deep pain of the lost relationship.  

Now, in 1996, he is in a stable position with regard to financial conditions but the reality is he cannot go back to his young age to make things correct because time is like a journey of a river which cannot flow otherwise. Now, realizing he is in his twilight of the age, he longs to go back to young age: a typical feeling of nostalgia at the old age.

This true life events makes the book is so human, so realistic and close to life which makes the book to read worthwhile. If you have not read the book ‘Bringing Tony Home’ by Tissa Abeysekara, I strongly recommend you to read it which won the Gratiaen Prize in 1996 for its creativity.

Have you too felt the feeling of nostalgia about your by gone life? I do.  And if I tell about my personal experience, I was fortunate to attend a meeting conducted by Tissa Abeysekara in The University of Arts when I was a college student and was marveled by his proficiency in handling both Sinhala and English languages.

Hope this would give you a head start to read the novel. If you find this useful please do share with it others.    

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