Note to the English translation
I enjoyed translating this short novel for several reasons. Sydney Dias has identified a dire need of the times: to tell children that the beauty of life is in its humaneness and not in external factors like caste, race or religion. In addition, he has highlighted an important aspect of Eastern ideology. We Sri Lankans, whether Tamils or Sinhalese, believe in living harmoniously with the environment. For us, trees and beasts are a part of our lives, like our parents, our brothers and sisters and other human beings.
The story is told in a language that can be easily understood by all, whether young or old. It moves forward slowly, without much drama, recording the events of everyday life and preparing the reader for a dramatic climax. Then again, it gives its readers enough time and space to think about the book’s final message before it ends.
I particularly like the title: The Fragrance of Friends. We Easterners believe that humaneness is a fragrance that we carry with us, a fragrance that comes from deep within us and we are all encouraged to cultivate this fragrance from early childhood.
I hope I have done justice to the book as well as its language in my attempt to translate it. I have tried to retain the idiom of the Sinhala in the original novel even though I tell you the story in English, a universal language.
— Padma Basnayake
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