COLOMBO (Reuters) - Visionary science fiction writer Arthur C. Clarke was buried on Saturday in his adopted home of Sri Lanka, where the nation paused for an international “titan” it had adopted as its own.
British-born Clarke, best known for his work on the movie “2001: A Space Odyssey,” died aged 90 of respiratory complications and heart failure, which doctors linked to the post-polio syndrome that for years kept him wheelchair-bound.
“We feel so privileged that you left your mark on us. Your footprint will never fade. If anything, it will only magnify what we do,” Tamara Ekanayake, who grew up at Clarke’s Colombo home and whose family he adopted, told mourners.
Close family and friends wept and threw yellow roses onto his body in a final gesture of respect as it lay on a white bed beneath curved elephant tusks to music from the Space Odyssey movie before burial at Colombo’s main cemetery.
His brother Fred and sister Mary watched on as hundreds of monks, mourners and sci-fi pilgrims clasped hands in prayer for a man who preferred the hard fact of science to organized religion.
“I do not think we will see another like him for another million years,” said teacher A.S.M Munawwar, who traveled from Sri Lanka’s east clutching a signed copy of one of Clarke’s books.
President Mahinda Rajapaksa, who this week called Clarke a “prophet,” asked Sri Lankans to observe a minute’s silence for the island’s most distinguished foreigner as newspapers mourned the “final voyage of a titan.”
Clarke left written instructions that his funeral be marked by “absolutely no religious rites of any kind.” For his tombstone he asked for the words: “Here lies Arthur Clarke. He never grew up, but didn’t stop growing.”
“Asked last year if there would be any monument to his passing, Sir Arthur said ‘walk into any good library and you will see my legacy there’,” his secretary Nalaka Gunawardena told Reuters.
“He believed that the show must go on. He also wanted us to celebrate, not mourn his passage,” Gunawardena said.
Marking his “90th orbit of the sun” in December, the prolific British-born author and theorist made three birthday wishes: For E.T. to call, for man to kick his oil habit and for peace in Sri Lanka, where a civil war has raged for 25 years.
Clarke was born in England on December 16, 1917 to a farming family, and served as a radar specialist in the Royal Air Force during World War Two.
He was one of the first to suggest the use of satellites orbiting the earth for communications, and in the 1940s forecast that man would reach the Moon by the year 2000 — an idea experts at first dismissed.
Clarke wrote around 100 books and hundreds of short stories and articles, and wanted to be remembered foremost as a writer. He was knighted in 1998.
Editing by Bill Tarrant