Now then, I've talked about books banned in Malaysia in past posts.
Some book bannings have been publicly proclaimed, though never debated.
Other books you don't know are banned until you try to get hold of copies of them and the suppliers tell the bookshop that they aren't allowed to bring in copies. The word used of such books is "restricted". But it amounts to the same thing: you can't get a copy unless you sneak it in to the country.
Sometimes the titles that turn out to be "restricted" don't suprise. I was curious to see if I could order a copy of Belle de Jour's racy Diary of a London Call Girl when I was writing a feature on "blooks". Of course you can't. Restricted. (Though available online.)
Some "restricted" books surprise. All Khalil Gibran's books are on this list. (Phek Chin of Silverfish asked the supplier "What if Gibran had written a cookbook, would that be banned too?" Silly question. Of course it would be.)
But right now I'm utterly, totally, absolutely gobsmacked.
Anthony Burgess' The Long Day Wanes (A Malayan Trilogy) is apparently on the restricted list too.
I have read it. I read it when I first came to Malaysia in 1984, loved it, based my decision to move to Kuala Kangsar ("Kuala Hantu" in the book) on it. Then my reading group chose it as one of the books of the month, a year or two back. They all enjoyed it too. There was no problem in getting copies - they were piled high in all the bookshops.
But a week or two ago, a friend tried Kinokuniya for a copy and was told, sorry the book wasn't available.
I heard the same story yesterday evening from Phek Chin at Silverfish after she'd tried to order a copy for a customer.
I'm just waiting to hear from Renee at MPH, but think I know the answer already.
Burgess isn't complimentary about the Malays, it's true. Or the Chinese. Or the Indians. Or the Orang Asli. Or even, come to think of it, the beer-swigging, incompetent British.
But there's more than a grain of truth packed into this colourful piece of satire, and surely this is one of the most important novels written about this country.
Are we honestly not allowed to read it? And by extension ... are Malaysia's own novelists (present and future) also condemned to writing platitudinous prose that does not step on anyone's toes?
It's fifty years since the first part of the trilogy, Time for a Tiger appeared, just on the cusp of Independence, and there are plans afoot (about which I can say nothing as yet) to honour Burgess as both writer and teacher in the coming months.
We'd like The Malayan Trilogy unrestricted as soon as possible, please.
Burgess Biographied 30/10/05