2020 Aug 28
A brilliantly executed dark tale of rural Ceylon.
The Village in the Jungle by Leonard Woolf is a novel published in 1913, based on the author’s experiences during his tenure in Ceylon.
“All jungles are evil, but no jungle is more evil than that which lay about the village of Beddagama”
Woolf’s vast knowledge of rural Ceylon and of its language and expression is as vast as the complexities of the jungle itself. He weaves a chaotic plot in a battered village in the jungle, steeped in violence and superstition. With Silindu, a poverty-stricken man and his family at the forefront of this foreboding novel, death, disease and gender discrimination are only a handful of misfortunes portrayed. However, a faint hint of hope emerges through the shifts of weather, only to soon be snatched away by greater events of evil that befall the village.
Of the many thematic specs of the novel, the birth of girl children and the portrayal of women spark controversy in the story-line. I found the author’s effort in showcasing female objectification to be praiseworthy. Interestingly, he has adapted a native viewpoint, other than his own colonial stance, in the unravelling of events. Using the village hierarchies against Silindu, who is a lower member of the community, the author goes on to show the brutality of power-play in society. Through this, he leaves the reader questioning the nature of power dynamics throughout history to the present day.
A feature most remarkable in the novel is the animosity of wild animals. This is belittled in the face of human violence that drowns the village in blood and chaos. The book is written as such, the depth and darkness of the jungle seem to be the fueling factor behind human corruption. For many reasons as such, the Village in the Jungle is definitely not a comfortable read if your idea is to cosy up with some coffee and a book.
However, it is definitely a clever and morbid masterstroke.