Friday, August 10, 2007

When Crime Fiction Imitates Life

Goodness me. Don't be too diligent about thoroughly researching your novel if you are writing crime fiction.

Kate Connolly in the Guardian reveals that Polish writer Krystian Bala is on trial for murder after writing a crime novel called Amok (I wonder if this is the Malay word?) in which the facts were just a little too similar to a real life killing. It doesn't help matters, I suppose, that the victim happened to be a friend of the author's ex-wife.

But is Mr. Bala really the murderer?

Postscript (21/0/07):

Kristian Bala has been sentenced to 25 years for murder.


Vergilya said...

Hey Sharon, I write a lot of crime and horror stories. So far I've kept them locked in my dreams and nightmares, if they're ever let loose maybe that's another way to get to the bestseller's list. :P

KayKay said...

Mmmmmmmm----------tantalising! Want to get my hands on this, and return to some honest to goodness crime fiction with it's blood and bodies, especially since Cormac McCarthy's The Road is turning out to be one of the most boring, plodding and pretentious works of drivel I've had the misfortune to read this year!

fathi aris omar said...

On "Negarakuku"

Joint Statement by:
Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI),
Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ),
Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD)

10 August 2007

Constitution guarantees Malaysians' freedom to celebrate Merdeka

Writers Alliance for Media Independence (WAMI), Centre for Independent Journalism (CIJ) and Institut Kajian Dasar (IKD) stress that the Federal Constitution guarantees Malaysians' freedom to celebrate Merdeka in any peaceful way they prefer. In fact, freedom as enshrined in the Constitution is central to the celebration of Merdeka. If we are not free, what independence is there to celebrate?

We express our gravest concern on the latest assault on artistic and cultural expression launched by some McCarthy wannabes in politics and media. Wee Meng Chee, a Malaysian student in Taiwan has attracted demonization in media and threat of legal action by politicians for writing a rap-song "I love my country, Negarakuku" with the national anthem Negaraku as its chorus, and sharing it on youtube.

We hold that Malaysians are mature enough to discuss and judge for themselves the content and form of arts. Political intervention into the world of arts hurts both arts and democracy. Unfortunately, before Wee, musicians performing genres like heavy metal and rock, movie directors like Mohamad Amir, Yasmin Ahmad and Tsai Ming-Liang, actress in Vagina Monologue, have all suffered harassment, vilification, censorship or ban for "offending" or "challenging" national culture, sensitivity, history, etc. in one way or another.

Malaysia, whose initial celebration 50 years ago and formation 44 years ago we are now supposed to celebrate, has become the greatest measure of political correctness upon which every artistic and cultural expression needs to be examined. Albeit without explicitly evoking Senator McCarthy's language, some Malaysians have set out to eliminate the crime of "unMalaysianness", a fact other Malaysians must now stand up and speak up.

We stress these three positions of principle:

1. The Federal Constitution of Malaysia explicitly guarantees every citizen "the right to freedom of speech and expression" (Article 10.1.a). While it also allows the Parliament to impose restrictions "by law", parodying the national anthem is not one of the eight permissible grounds. (Article 10.1.b) We remind all quarters that the suggestion of evoking a charge against Wee under the National Anthem Act has therefore risked defying the Federal Constitution itself, a more serious offence than any parodying of the National Anthem.

2. No one should be prosecuted or persecuted for their artistic expressions so long they are not propagating violence. Those who disagree with certain artistic expressions should reply with artistic critiques or counter-expressions, rather than banning or them or persecuting the artists with the state's power. The same principle applies on academic, social, political, religious, cultural views, where an opponent to a particular view should strive to defeat and debunk the view s/he opposes in free debates, rather than silencing whomever s/he considers heretic with the state's power. If we cannot hold on to this principle, we are making a mockery of the Article 10 of our Federal Constitution.

3. Inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony cannot be promoted by suppressing freedom of expression. Suppression will only drive misunderstanding and animosity into frustrations and anger which will sweep everyone when suppression is no longer possible. Bigotry and hostility can only be addressed and eliminated under open and rational debates, where everyone respect each other's freedom of expression insofar no violence is used or advocated. If some are intolerant to views they consider insulting or offensive, the society must promote tolerance and respect, rather than conceding to emotional responses of the intolerant lot. Otherwise, if everyone protests against everything s/he considers offensive, perhaps no issue can be discussed publicly. This will only kill democracy as the state can dictate on matters of importance without public scrutiny and participation.

Thomas Paine said it aptly, "Government, even in its best state, is but a necessary evil; in its worst state, an intolerable one." The white-terror Senator McCarthy brought to the US in 1950s – investigating and persecuting left-leaning artists under the charges of un-American activities - testified the danger when the government's power goes beyond the necessary.

The monopoly of Merdeka outdoor celebration by the Culture, Arts and Heritage Ministry has signaled earlier a dangerous trend that our nation's Independence or its celebration is now seen as the Government's prerogative or private property. The zest to persecute Wee is but the second manifestation of such mentality. Malaysians, regardless whether they agree with Wee's views, must stand up to defend the right to celebrate Merdeka in any peaceful way they like, against the assaults of the Little McCarthys in politics and the media.

This statement is initiated by WAMI,

Jointly issued by:
Wong Chin Huat, Chairperson, WAMI
Gayathry V., Executive Director, CIJ
Khalid Jaafar, Executive Director, IKD

bibliobibuli said...

thanks very much, fathi. will post this up front.

Anonymous said...

Not entirely without precedent. The mystery novelist Anne Perry's real name is Juliet Hulme, and as a teenager helped murder her best friend's mother. She left New Zealand when she was released from prison, and settled in Scotland under her new name. I can no longer read her books ever since I found out. They say write what you know, but there should be limits.

Anonymous said...

Actually Bib, I talked this over with Mr Wong (of WAMI) and we surprisingly came to agreement that what the kid did was disagreeable. This was actually a sad thing because I hoped to hear a different viewpoint on the matter.

And anonymous, why can't you read her books ? does being an accessory to murder change the quality of her writing ?

It's amazing how many people think that there should be limits to free speech and freedom of expression.

"There should be limits" - I knew this would happen, give people freedom and soon they will limit themselves, and attempt to limit other people.

bibliobibuli said...

that's a very good point anon. i suspect i'd want to read out of curiosity ... because the written word always takes us where we otherwise might not go. and we all have a dark side, don't we?

there was also this japanese case i forgot to link

i would be more horrified if someone killed in order to write about it though