Kak Teh wrote a very nice piece about our national laureate, Dato A. Saman Said, the other day: do go take a look.
I see him around town, quite often - riding the LRT or browsing in Kinokuniya. With his distinctive white beard you can't miss him, and he looks every inch the eccentric writer.
Years ago, when I was learning Malay I hoped to become a fluent enough reader to tackle some of the classics written in the language, and everyone told me that Salina was the one Malay novel I must read.
Up to that point I'd been doing fine with my Malay and felt that I was ready to graduate from kid's books and newspaper articles to the fiction I longed to read in the original language.
But I managed just half a page of Salina.
You see, I got to a sentence that read: Mentari terbit, and I just couldn't imagine what a government minister was doing rising in a field. Nothing that came after that seemed to make sense.
I asked my friends at school and they just laughed at me. A minister, of course is menteri. Mentari is a literary way of saying matahari, meaning sun.
It struck me then that the serviceable, everyday Malay I'd learned wasn't up to the task of coping with the literature.
I'll read Salina in an English translation, I said, put the two editions side by side and study the Malay that way.
But I never found one in the bookshops.
And more or less my Malay got stuck at that point. Frustration point. In a sense it was a good lesson for me, because I understood what many of my students were feeling about English.
But I feel still sad about my inability to read literature in Malay and I'd love to do something even now. Especially so that I could read all those old books of poetry in the backroom of Raman's shop.
And of course, Salina.