Friday, January 04, 2008

Malay Literature ... In the Doldrums?

Lim Swee Tin is interviewed by Bissme S. in the Sun. Of Chinese and Thai parentage and one of the few non-Malay writers to write poetry and short fiction in the Malay language, Lim paints a depressing picture of a stagnant Malay language literary scene:
There has not been much progress. Our literature is far behind that of the (rest of the) world. We need to shake things up so our literature scene will move at a fast pace and we will catch up with the rest of the world.

We are stagnant in terms of new ideas. And it is not enough just to have new ideas. It is also important to present these new ideas in a way the world’s readers can relate to them. It also boils down to your writing technique and presentation.

Malaysian writers writing in English such as Tash Aw (Harmony Silk Factory) and Rani Manicka (The Rice Mother) are on the right track. They have somehow perfected the art, presented their ideas so world readers could relate to them. It is not surprising that western journals feature them and their books. At the same time, I also find there are not enough writers producing serious Malay literature. We can count them on our fingers. One particular young writer I am really impressed with is Faisal Tehrani. I see a lot of potential in him.


Awang Goneng said...

I am a great fan of Faisal Tehrani and am glad that he's got a mention. Swee Tin is right about the state of Malay Literature. Last week, while in Terengganu I sat aghast watching a trendy young presenter on TV doing a programme on 'literature' in Malay. The person he interviewed, a writer of the Mills & Boon literary school, was put on the same pedestal as A Samad Said. What hope for Malay lit indeed.

Thanks Sharon, I must thank you belatedly for the wonderful afternoon. Sorry if my reading eyes failed a little.

Jiwa Rasa said...


I believe the problem is not with the Malay literature per se.

The problem with Malay literature is that they are not read by others. They are not translated to other languages.

We have a translation institute with a national status but we can't see the result.

I've read a lot of good books in Malay literature. They are many with is comparable if not better than some English literature. I wish they could be translated...

bibliobibuli said...

awang goneng - you were a star!! i love that people have taken you and your book so much to their hearts. i was just about to blog the right up today in the malay mail.

really i feel so sad iof this is the case with malay literature. while i am cross with myself for not being a better reader of literary malay, i am so disappointed that i can't access so much of it! even good stuff that has been translated is not easily available. there is also a shortage of good translators ... and translation costs money, of course. i think it needs to be a priority. I'd like to see readers outside malaysia able to access it too.

is there any hope that something might be done?

ouch about the tv programme, pak awang!