Monday, September 04, 2006

Things Surely Falling Apart

Another "restricted" (i.e. banned) book to add to the list, according to Raman.

This time it's Things Fall Apart, Chinua Acebe's classic novel about the coming of colonialism to Nigeria.

It's a wonderful book and we used to teach it as part of our B.Ed TESL course. I haven't a clue why it might be deemed unsuitable for a Malaysian readership, have you?

I'm so angry I fear I might explode.

Raman thinks that the mysterious difference in number between books imported and books read might in fact be due to the fact that books are brought into Singapore for the Malaysian market by the distributors, but not allowed over the border.

Let's dedicate the Yeat's poem that forms the epigram to the book to the blustering bureaucrats who decide what you are and are not allowed to read:
Things fall apart; the center cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.


Chet said...

Hey, this was one of my HSC English Literature texts!

Jane Sunshine said...

Is this information verified? This is because I remember Things Fall Apart being part of the syllabus for STPM English Literature (at least in 1994-5).

Chet said...

Jane - that was 11 years ago. Lots of things can change in 11 years, including exam syllabus.

sympozium said...

What were those cries again? Oh yes, "Merdeka! Merdeka! Merdeka!"

bibliobibuli said...

jane - raman is a reliable source as he will know from his distributor when he tries to place an order. every time he's told me a book has been "restricted" in the past, the other bookshops have confirmed it. and how to verify beyond that? there is no list made public. no civil servant prepared to make a statement. no televised debate. books are quietly disappearing ...

lil ms d said...

the powers that be are trying to dumb down the nation.

off to amazon i go! (die die my credit card)

animah said...

What?!!! I did the book in Form 2 as part of English Literature. Ok that was 25 years ago (revealing age here) but this is shocking. Wondering if Christianity has anything to do with it (although it potrayed Christianity in a poor light if I remember correctly) or is it about how a society has changed and is going downhill. Funny sense of deja vous here. Now I'll definitely read it again and figure out the parallels.

elan said...

i read this book when i was in PPP-ITM (Pusat persediaan pelajar-ITM), and my friend read this as part of her IB course.

i guess to get exposure on quality literature, we have to be on an international syllabus..?

flame me.

pat said...

what happened? the very same book was used a year before me in SPM eng lit paper. and that wasn't very long ago. i took my SPM in 2002. so the book was still in use in 2001.

after all this while...?

Argus Lou said...

Aiyo! The bodoh bureaucrats are beyond buffoons.

Now I'll hafta comb through the book to see what in heaven's name could have remotely set them off.

Our dear country appears to be -- in fact, is -- a kind of Auschwitz for books. And dogs.

Jane Sunshine said...

You know the PEN thing you are initiating Sharon? This could be one of the biggest agendas. If so many people feel so strongly about this, we could all group together and just engage in some kind of organized dialogue with the so-called 'powers that be'.

Maybe there's some kind of explanation: they may have fed with the wrong info, made a mistake etc. And at some point, get our hands on the so-called 'banned books list' to see what's really happening.

I am hopeful that it will work but we've got to do it within some kind of organized network to show our commitment.

bibliobibuli said...

i got a chance to glance at the letters received by one book distributor yesterday. all the books that are "restricted" were seized at the border with singapore (where the main warehouses are). the letters came from the kementarian dalam negeri in johor bahru. no explantion at all was given for why the books were not allowed in.

later i went to kinokuniya. books flown in via KLIA seem to come in okay.

my hunch about the US vs. UK versions of Burgess' book proved to be correct - you can get it by the US name, that version isn't restricted.

apparently the burgess book is also being used on college course here, so it doesn't make sense to ban it!

i don't think there is a list of "restricted" books. it would be extremely long if there was. (few titles are as high profile as the burgess and acebe though.)

pat - i don't think these guys know much about literature, probably hadn't heard of the book before. i don't know what edition got banned, whether all editions are banned, but it could have been even the cover the kdm objected to (as it was in the case of "the divine secret of the yaya sisterhood")

jane - PEN should take this up. our local chapter? nothing moving. i am not the intitiator or the one that can really take the lead (foreigner, what. don't even have my pr status and therefore can't legally hold a position). but anyway shall push from behind and help all i can.

animah said...


Who's initiating PEN?

bibliobibuli said...

*sigh* things are in a limbo, animah

we had that intitial meeting with hari. jac sm kee set up a wikki thing. sunitha of british council told us hari was asking what had happened. nothing nothing nothing.

in fairness, the folks who came to the meeting have plenty on their plate already and it falls to them (us) to get everything literary moving. but the lack of movement is frustrating. i feel i can't do much more than support being a foreigner. let me talk to sunitha again and see who we can prod and push. it would be great if you wanted to be involved as you write, know the legal side, and care about artists rights issues.

animah said...

If Malaysian writers are as apathetic as the general Malaysian public, then they are not worthy of having their rights defended. Don't expect the small handful of human rights lawyers to bail them out. They already have their hands full.

bibliobibuli said...

right. but i don't think it is apathy so much as an "oh god, not something else landing on me when i'm already doing x, y and z". plus it was a very samll intitial group of writers and we need perhaps to cast the net more widely. but then, who is we?

let me have a poke around once i've got my hands clear of the things i have to do and see what's happening.

Sufian said...

Oh yes, Sharon, 'tis not apathy, but poverty.

bibliobibuli said...

sufian - yes, you're absolutely right. the need just to get by.

then the folks who were gathered the other day are all doing so much already. it did feel kind of dropped on everyone i think.

i think too it's that no-one wants to make the first move. a kind of inertia.

did you notice i got a response from hari at the end of the post where i wrote about PEN and he said he was interested in being kept informed about what is happening re. human rights and writers so he can pass the info on to PEN? here is an informal starting point at least

Nik Nazmi said...

I still can't see why Things Fall Apart is banned!!

I also used it for my CIE A-Levels in 2002.

Tian said...

The revelation: the second coming is near. Perhaps it is the coming of a universal spirit of democracy and humanism. Things of the old regime are falling apart. Shouldn’t we wipe our tears and rejoice?