An insightful meeting with seventy-three-year-old Ivan in Ukraine inspired Pramudith D. Rupasinghe to pen down this Biographical Historical Fiction named Bayan. The book is an exquisite amalgamation of history, human sentiments, music, and philosophy. In over seventy years, Ivan — the protagonist — has witnessed, suffered, and enjoyed numerous ebbs and flows of the circumstances. As a result, he holds not only an ocean of memories but also a treasure of wisdom and awe-inspiring experiences. Living a life of solitude, accompanied by only a bayan, he plays and sings melodies reminiscent of the days long gone. Then, in a turn of events, a stranger enters his house and stays as a guest with him for a few days. What begins as a cultural and philosophical monologue eventually turns into a walk down a memory lane that was too personal and too emotional.
Bruders were terrifying the villagers, killing men, raping women, looting anything that belonged to the poor people; my parents escaped into the forest with our cow. They stayed in the forest till the ruthless Germans were defeated by the undaunted red soldiers who were backed by the boundless support of our people in villages.– An excerpt from Bayan by Pramudith D. Rupasinghe
It is impossible to pick up Bayan and remain untouched by the almost lyrical usage of metaphors in the narration. Pramudith D. Rupasinghe’s ability to paint a picture by including perfect metaphors is outstanding. Without including actual pictures, the author managed to draw detailed snapshots of nature, people, places, and whatnot. Reading Bayan is similar to bathing oneself into the pool of immense wisdom that only comes from living a life full of turmoil, grief, and mindfulness. If a reader is seeking mental stimulation, then Bayan is a must-read. One can begin highlighting quotes that resonate with them or enlighten them but soon, the realization will hit them that they have ended up coloring almost every line of every page. There is just so much relatable philosophy in the book.
I learnt that it was rather the reaction of the society towards her disability, than her disability itself that caused her strange thoughts and the actions that followed.– An excerpt from Bayan by Pramudith D. Rupasinghe
As good as this paramount knowledge is, it can become overwhelming at times. A reader may make the perception that Bayan is written solely to write down philosophical thoughts. A reader seeking a story may even make the decision of closing the book, which will be a mistake. If the reader maintains patience just a little longer, Ivan’s personal life will begin to flow. Pramudith D. Rupasinghe has done an extraordinary job of narrating Ivan’s longing for the old days, his financial struggles, his rollercoaster relationship with Nadiia, the anguish he felt at losing his dear ones, and his memories of Soviet-era and post-Soviet times. Elaborating these parts and reflecting more on Ivan’s personal life could have provided Bayan with the potential of being accepted by a larger audience and all the more engaging.
‘You cannot do anything about it but breathe till the last fruit falls and the last branch dries out. Then your tough wood will be added to the black soil that fed you while you were living. Remember! It’s a part of the sacred pilgrimage called life, which is solely a process of interdependence. All you take will have to be returned.’– An excerpt from Bayan by Pramudith D. Rupasinghe
Ivan appeared to be in a rush of spilling out everything that he knew or had realized over his long life. For a huge part of the book, Ivan was talking about random topics to the stranger without actually giving him a chance to contribute to the conversation. These monologues became too artificial too quick. Rewriting the conversations to convert them into a dialogue format — rather than the current long monologues — will definitely enhance the reading experience. Apart from the conversations, Ivan’s melodious and heartfelt music was another thing that appeared like a bombardment of lyrics at times. A meaningful pause between the songs and their placement at relevant places can further enhance and audience’s experience.
She came out and sang songs about the young friend,
the bullish eagle from steppe,
all about the one she dearly loved,
the one whose letters she treasured and kept’– An excerpt from Bayan by Pramudith D. Rupasinghe
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