Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Malayan Trilogy Run-Around

Following my rant of the other day ...

Contacted the distributor, Pansing in Singapore about the status of the Anthony Burgess book. Could they tell me more about why the book can't be distributed in Malaysia?

It seems that copies bound for Malaysia were seized at customs with no more explanation than that the book is "restricted". Were Customs officers acting arbitrarily, or is the book on a Ministry of Home Affairs list? If so, on what grounds and who decided? (A statement, please!)

Tried to call the Ministry of Home Affairs for clarification. But predictably got the run-around. Got passed on and passed on and passed on, until I got passed to the Deputy Director's phone which wasn't answered. And probably the whole department was tittering behind their hands about how they deflected an angry mat salleh. (Though I did do my best to be polite.) Never mind.

Worth bearing in mind is that the book goes by different titles according to the edition. The UK Vintage edition goes by the title The Malayan Trilogy, and the American edition published by the Norton Library (and still available at Kinunya) The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy.

Confusing, hey? Well, that could be a good thing if it confuses the right people.

Postscript

Meanwhile, if you want to buy a copy of the book at a very reasonable price, try abebooks.com. Prices start at US1 and really all you are paying for is the postage. I've found that the books arrive really quickly too.

12 comments:

theeternalwanderer said...

It is clearly obvious that anything written about Malays by a Mat Salleh seemed to face tougher restrictions!

This incident is further proof that many politicians and the people who work for them are full of non-sense. So devoid of sense they are that I don't think they can run the country any better than the North Koreans are running theirs!

Ted Mahsun said...

Still available at Kino's, eh? But the UK edition looks better...

animah said...

I can check the PU(B)s (minor subsidiary legislation) under the PPPA to see if the book is banned. Customs also have their red book where some items may be prohibited entry. Not sure how to access that one.
So Mat Salleh, make sure you don't name them "Malay" when you write about that particular race. Wonder if a Malay can write about a Malay. What is a Malay anyway?

sympozium said...

Yes Ted, I agree with you! The UK edition looks better.

dreamer idiot said...

I haven't read the novel, but read some of the US Amazon reviews, and I think I know why it is banned. The triology diagnoses the potential pitfalls and problems regarding modernisation and ethnic relations then, hence is suppressed for the insights they offer. Unlike most Western novelists, Burgess seem to be widely praised for his more sympathetic and objective views compared to other 'colonial' novelists. Sadly, the banning of the book and the current socio-political landscape seem to reflect and further confirm the issues and narrowmindedness our country suffer from.

Reading this piece and the other news in negaraku lately, I have little mood to celebrate merdeka, especially with the constant dirty money politics and ugly social divisions. Alas, I can only foolishly dream on for a Malaysia for all rakyat...

bibliobibuli said...

ted, sympozium - i don't really like the uk edition - my copy has gone spotty very quickly and the paper is a bit rough ... since i ordered the other copy (experimentally!) i think i'll buy it and then let you know. my old copy i'll keep for lending out.

eternal wanderer, animah - worrying it is indeed, if you are a writer, partic. a mat salleh one. (animah - indeed what is the exact definition of a malay - a great philosophical point). writers here need to allow themselves at least as much freedom to criticise as burgess did. more perhaps because they are writing about their own country.

animah - i suspect it is just in customs little book. which makes it almost impossible to do anything about it. i am also sure that many titles other tites are unavaialble but we do not get to hear about them because they are not as important.

dreamer idiot - yes, that's a good summary of the book. in a sense it asks awkward questions about the country on the verge of independence - which is also why it is a particularly important book to read at the moment - when the country looks forward to celebrating 50 years of merdeka

madcap machinist said...

I was on my way to Kino after work to hunt for the book this evening when the terrible traffic caused me to take a pit stop at Bangsar. MPH at Telawi definitely does not have it.

It's a happier hour spent at Telawi than in a car so I didn't go to check at Times BSC. It turned out to be a very long pit stop!

I am speculating, but wouldn't it be in the interest of the government to restrict alternative accounts (esp. if they are as awkward as you and DI say) of the Merdeka years, and indeed other important events in the nation's history. A film about communists? Quash it. A song about May 13? Gum it. Scholars may know better, but the less the public know, the better.

What defines a Malay? That's a can of worms. One simple answer could be that "A Malay is not an Indian or a Chinese". I say that with no ill intention, but could that be construed as racist? These days, it seems that to ask "What defines a Bangsa Malaysia?" should be more politically correct. Would we find books that ask and explore what defines a Malay, (Chinese, Indian, Iban etc. etc.) be "restricted" too? On the grounds of racial sensitivity, political stability, and what-nots. Because I am sure, if such a book is written, a lot of toes would be stampeded on.

Anonymous said...

"One simple answer could be that "A Malay is not an Indian or a Chinese"."

Gosh, that would make most of the world's population Malay :)

"Takkan Melayu hilang di dunia" indeed :)

madcap machinist said...

anon, my point exactly: it doesn't matter.

__earth said...

no wonder i can't find the book here in malaysia. sigh. wish i was back in the united states.

Anonymous said...

Is the book still banned? Just came back from Kino, and there quite a few UK and US copies of the book there.

bibliobibuli said...

it wasn't banned, the UK edition was "restricted" and according to raman and the distributors has been silently "unrestricted" again ... after all our fuss!! we have a victory but no-one knows it!!