Thursday, November 02, 2006

Southeast Asian Reading List

I stumbled across a very interesting bibliography of novels in English set in South-East Asia the other day, written by a Professor Leinbach, presumably for a course he was teaching.

The original page with a synopsis of each novel is no longer on the internet but for the moment is cached here. (If the link no longer works, e-mail me for a copy.)

Here is the bare bones version with links:

George Orwell - Burmese Days

Francois Bizot - The Gate
Jon Swain - River of Time

Vicki Baum - A Tale from Bali
Miguel Covarrubias - Island of Bali
F C J Koch - The Year of Living Dangerously
Mochtar Lubis - A Road with No End (Out of print)
Mochtar Lubis - Twilight in Djakarta (Out of print)
Colin McPhee - A House in Bali
Pramoedya Ananta Toer - This Earth of Mankind
Pramoedya Ananta Toer - Child of All Nations
Pramoedya Ananta Toer - The Girl from the Coast

Shahnon Ahmad - No Harvest but a Thorn (Out of print)
Anthony Burgess - The Malayan Trilogy (Banned)
Henri Fauconnier - The Soul of Malaya
James Kirkup - Tropic Temper: A Memoir of Malaya (Out of print)
John Slimming - Temiar Jungle: A Malayan Journey (Out of print)
John Slimming - The Pepper Garden (Out of print)
Han Suyin - And the Rain My Drink (Out of print)
Agnes Newton Keith - Land Below the Wind (Out of print)
Agnes Newton Keith - Three Came Home, Little Brown (Out of print)
Agnes Newton Keith - White Man Returns (Out of print)

Cecilia Manguerra Brainard - When the Rainbow Goddess Wept
F. Sionil Jose - Dusk
Tess Uriza Holthe - When the Elephants Dance

(More novels about the Philippines here.)

Chart Korpjitti - The Judgement (Out of print)

Nelson Demille - Up Country
Thu Huong Duong and Nina McPherson - Memories of a Pure Spring
Thu Huong Duong and Nina McPherson - Paradise of the Blind
Graeme Green - The Quiet American

I had no idea when I started looking for links that so many novels about Malaysia/Malaya are now out of print. I think that this is extremely sad.

Never mind - copies are bound to be available on abebooks and other second-hand sites and book hunting is more fun sometimes than an Amazon one click!


midnite lily said...

Malaysia/Malaya novels out of print or banned. Does that say it's not saleable? No one's interested? It's a hot book?

I agree, its sad. =(

Btw, Ghosh's Glass Palace is set in Burma-India, and Malaya.

sympozium said...

Coincidentally I'm reading Jon Swain's River of Time right now...
I was informed by a friend from Kota Kinabalu that Agnes Newton Keith is quite well-known there - she was the wife of some colonial officer, and her wooden house has been turned into a museum featuring her life and works...
When The Elephants Danced is superb, and A Tale of Bali readable if not exactly great.

animah said...


Off tangent again - but you might find a lot of new hits today. You are mentioned in Jeff Ooi's blog: in relation to your comments on the "plagiarism" of Brendan Pereira. I withhold comment as I have not had a chance to read the 2 pieces.

bibliobibuli said...

midnight lily - yes, the list is not a complete one ... just one person's version and perhaps amitav ghosh would be a worthy addition. i hope readers can suggest other malaysian must-reads (in english) on the country

thanks sympozium - it's necessary to be able to read a literary heritage - even if many of these books are th mat salleh version. i plan to buy these books second-hand now and make an effort to read them.

animah - i know. hundreds of hits on this site this morning! it only began as a comment left on another blog (rocky's). i need to blog this and will but my conscience is stung about articles i've not submitted so i need to get them out the way first. hold comments for later! blogging can rather take over ones life ...

rob said...


One of my favourite

Fortune-teller Told Me: Earthbound Travels in the Far East by Tiziano Terzani (ISBN: 0006550711)

Not just Malaysia but South-east Asia.

helena said...

One of my favourite books of all time, that happens to be based in our country (and ther SEA countries as well): Peter Carey's "My Life as a Fake". still in print, fortunately =)

nyx said...

Agnes Newton Keith's books are available in KK


as for SEA literature...

Finding George Orwell in Burma by Emma Larkin

From the Land of Green Ghosts by Pascal Khoo Thwe

Stranger in the Forest: On Foot Across Borneo by Eric Hansen

Orchid Fever by Eric Hansen

I agree with rob... Fortune Teller Told Me was a fantastic read

The Lover by Marguerite Duras for Vietnam counted? hehe, i just love that book :)

sympozium said...

I'm surprised A Fortune Teller Told Me was not banned. It's a superb travel book.

Catfish & Mandala by Andrew X. Pham is also very good.

I find that the bookshops in Bangkok have a larger selection of Asiana books - fiction and non - than KL. Haven't been to Singapore for a while so can't comment on that...

__earth said...

your Burmese Days' link is broken. Or rather, it's linked to the wrong book.

sky said...

as with other lists I react with why is so and so book not included. but then it's the professor's preference. i try to rationalize why jessica hagedorn's dogeaters and alex garland's the tesseract were not included.

but then, fsj's dusk covers most of philippine history until the fall of president marcos so the list will do.

i'm guilty of not reading much on our neighbors. so thanks for the list!

animah said...

Sharon, Sharon, I think now is the time to blog about plagiarism again ... The results shows how powerful bloggers have become.

Chris said...

Sharon, 'Malayan Trilogy' banned? That would be very sad. I'm looking at my copy of 'The Long Day Wanes', the other title for 'Malayan Trilogy' which I bought from MPH about four years ago. But I now recall, perhaps a year later, seeing 'Malayan Trilogy' on the rack at MPH Bangsar. That edition had an introduction by Burgess in which he made some observations about the way Malaysia had developed since he first wrote about it. I can understand some people being offended.

Other titles you may wish to add to your list: 'Tales from The South China Seas', part of a trilogy edited by Charles Allan, the many Somerset Maugham short stories, 'Crowded Hour by Sjovald Cunyngham-Brown. Is Joseph Conrad in your list?

acid burn said...

the Malaysian list is saddening..
I just finished reading The Malayan Trilogy, borrowed it from the uni library here. I had a great time being entertained by Burgess' quirky characters. I guess people take great offense at his description of the locals, some of which I found rather accurate even now...

bibliobibuli said...

thanks all - for correcting things and for giving me more titles for the list

i'd add "a fortune teller told me" and "tales from the south-china seas" if we expanded the list to include non-fiction

and i'd also add "touch the dragon" by canadian writer karen connolly anout thailand

sky - perhaps jessica hagedorn's "dogeaters" and alex garland's "the tesseract" weren't added because the writer didn't know about them ... all the books listed seem to be much older.

funny thing, i didn't like "the tesseract" so much when i read it, but after my visit to manila am wishing i still had my copy. also many thanks for extending my knowledge of filipino literature with books you sent, sky.

"the malayan trilogy" is both banned and not banned (you can still buy it as "the long day wanes")

glad that the agnes newton keith novels are still avaialble

bibliobibuli said...

oh sorry yes - and conrad should be on the list for sure

no-one has said rani manicka or tash aw yet ... interesting

and i'd also add paul theroux's "the consul's file" for malaysia

rob said...


Here are two more gems about Malaysia (non-fiction)

Two Faces by Syed Husin Ali.
Very poignant about his detention under ISA. If you want to understand the minds on both parties then I recommend it thoroughly.

A Malaysian Journey by Rehman Rashid.
A funny and thoughtful account of Malaysia's transition to the "modern" world. Read his hilarious accounts of making sure the senior government catching a big fish when he visited the fishery station where Rehman was working.

bibliobibuli said...

yes Rob - if we include non-fiction, thos books should definitely be on. and Rehman's story about the fish is classic

lil ms d said...

alamak. benkrap la saya,

Lotus Reads said...

Invaluable list, I'm going to enjoy looking for some of these books, thank you so much Sharon!