Sanjiva Wijesinha -writer and physician

Short stories, Travel and Health Information

Stories Based on Medical Experiences – Book Review by Premasara Epasinghe

premasara epasinghe

 Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha’s latest book, Not Our War, written by an Associate Professor University of Monash University, Australia, who is also a former surgeon and a family physician in Melbourne is a fine collection of superb human interest stories.His style of writing is simple, lucid and readable. His compassion to his patients, as a surgeon-cum-physician, is beautifully depicted throughout this book. It also includes a series of short stories with romance, drama and humour. Dr. Sanjiva Wijesinha gained a wide range of experience serving as a medical officer in the Sri Lanka Army Medical Corps. Further, after migrating to Australia, he accepted a Commission in the Royal Australian Army Medical Corps, in which he served for 15 years.

Not Our War consists of 13 stories. Out of them, four stories belong to the Fiction genre. They are ‘Sergeant Thabrew’s Story,’ ‘Not Our War,’ ‘The Illusion of Permanence’ and ‘The Departure Lounge.’ The other stories are also equally interesting. Doctor Wijesinha’s Not Our War brings back the echoes of short stories and novels written by another doctor-cum-physician Somerset Maugham (1874-1965).

A medical doctor before prescribing medicine diagnoses the disease of his patient. He generally has a friendly chat in tracing the history of the disease. Further, he collects a lot of information, sometimes personal facts, about the patient and his family background. Generally, medical men who contributed to the literary field make use of their experiences and the characters they come across in their professional life and then turn them into fine literary episodes. Even the novelist and short story writer who brought credit and honour to Sri Lanka, writing the best short story in the 1950s. Dr. Gunadasa Amarasekera is a dental surgeon.

It was noticeable in reading Somerset Maugham, how he used his experience to write short stories. In the case of this book most of the characters spring from his past medical experience. Not Our War will be a novel experience for laymen who never faced the spectre of terrorism which raged for three decades in the island taking a high toll of lives. In ‘Sergeant Thabrew’s Story,’ the chief character Thabrew loses his beloved son Lakdasa. The doctor selected him while serving in the selection panel. The father, Sgt. Thabrew says, “Sir, with my understanding of Buddhism, I now come to terms with my son’s death,” he told me. Nothing is permanent. All things are impermanent. We must not have any attachments in life, because all that we can have are nothing but illusions. As a Buddhist, I know all this and I accept this.”

It is the best story in the collection. Dr. Wijesinha has developed all his stories from simple plots and all the 13 stories in Not Our War are emotional. Once you read these stories you will feel that the characters are true to life. In the last short story in Not Our War, the brilliant writer winds up the book with touching lines:

“Having served for over 20 years as a Military Medical Officer, I have learned at first hand what blood smells like and what it is like to lose friends on the battlefield.”

Not Our War consists of 92 pages and 13 chapters. It is a readable collection of short stories.

The book is available at in Sri lanka from all Vijitha Yapa bookshops – and in Melbourne from selected Dymocks bookshops (Camberwell, Southland, Fountain Gate etc) and Balwyn Bookshop. It may also be obtained directly by post from the author who may be contacted at

Not Our War – published by Vijitha Yapa Publications: Colombo 2013 (ISBN 978-955-665-207-9)



This entry was posted on January 15, 2014 by in Uncategorized.

Top Posts & Pages

Book: Tales From my Island