Monday, April 14, 2008

Pak Samad and the Copyright

National Laureate A. Samad Said talks to Bissme S. in the Sun about the serious neglect of Malay literature in this country, and how he doesn't see the situation improving.

The dumbing down of the Malay literature syllabus in schools is a particular cause for concern :
Just think of these students two decades from now. They are not exposed to good literature.

If you start saying the work of Sasterawan Negara are difficult at school level, then don’t expect them to touch these books when they leave school. You are sending out a clear message - do not read the work of Sasterawan Negara. Everything should start in school. We are not creating a situation where people will read good literature.

In America the students are studying To Kill A Mocking Bird, and in England they go for Lord Of The Flies. All are difficult books. If you want simple books, then just read ABC all the time.
Pak Samad also talks about his attempt to get the copyright of his books back from Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, so that now they are out of print and unavailable, he can publish them himself. Apparently they have given him the rights to seven books, but not to twelve others :
... the most important ones ... the ones I want.
including to Pak Samad's best known work, Salina.
DBP always says the work of Sasterawan Negara is difficult to sell. When you ask for your copyright, they don’t want to give it to you. ... I think it is the right time to give me the rights to all my books. What is the point of keeping the copyright for my books if people are not interested in reading them?
Now this is where you, my blog readers, come in.

There is a petition organised by Pak Samad's son Helmy (which I learned about from Ted's blog) urging the DBP to give the author the copyright, and you can your names to the online version.

Pak Samad now has a beautiful website where you can read about his latest publications and enjoy samples of his work. And he's also on Facebook (although no-one has thrown a sheep at him yet, it seems.)


mel said...

hmmm ... i think he might get more signatures if our NRIC & contact numbers weren't made public on the petition.

bibliobibuli said...

good point. some have put XXX for that info though ...

Anonymous said...

There should be a clause in his contract that the copyright reverts to him the moment the books are out of print and the publisher isn't going to reprint.
- Poppadumdum

bibliobibuli said...

yes, but this is from way back ... i'm sure if it had been in his contract then, he wouldn't have this problem now. i have no idea what a dwp contract looks or looked like ...

Ted Mahsun said...

Personally, I don't think the online petition would have much effect. At least not as much as the one they've been doing at KLIBF. More than 800 signatures when I asked yesterday!

Anonymous said...

agree with mel on the point of our NRIC and contact numbers. doesn't make sense to have an option to make our email addresses private and yet more important information is being made public

bibliobibuli said...

hmmm ... ted do you think we could get some more signatures at readings this sat and mph breakfast club?

i'm so glad to hear about the 800 signatures so far

agree anon. i don't mind putting my contact no as it is on my business card but i put my old passport number rather than my current one

Nisah Haji Haron said...

As much as I agree with the idea behind the petition, Pak Samad is actually free to publish all his works that has not been republished by DBP.

It's a simple law of contract. When one party fails to perform his part of the agreement despite notice given, the other party is free to terminate the agreement.

I already advised Pak Samad to continue publishing his work. But I think he and Wira Bukit Sdn. Bhd. has other agenda.

Anyway, more on copyrights : please get a copy of my latest book "Karya Kita Hak Kita" - Our Work Our Rights from my online bookstore -

bibliobibuli said...

thanks very much, nisah. congrats on your new book - it sounds incredibly necessary!

Poseidon said...

it's hard to enjoy malay literature when so many words are being imported from english- dengan satu klik saya dapat downloadkan data tersebut untuk diskusi di kelas.

it's more of a dialect of english!

Cat R. said...

Since poseidon happily digressed from the topic of the petition -- could it be that the reason students shut off during Malay literature studies is not because it is difficult, but because of the extremely didactic way it is being taught?

When I was in secondary school students taking the Malay lit syllabus dropped it in favour of English lit not because their English was any better, but because it seemed less dogmatic and doctrinal. I remember sitting in during Malay lit classes in Form Six and being absolutely thankful that I would not sit for exams for it -- this was a subject in which you *could* get a wrong interpretation no matter how well you backed yourself up.

I don't think English literary studies in secondary school can call itself much better now, since so much of it sounds like comprehension, but I do know that for many of my former classmates who dropped Malay literature studies back then, it was not out of a lack of interest in the reading material (which can be cultivated), but a lack of interest in having to study it as a subject.

Another reason for the dumbing down of the lit syllabus also has to do with how students are streamed. 'Smart' students are sent to the Science stream where they are expected to tackle 'tougher' subjects like chemistry and physics, whereas 'Dumb' students are sent to disposable subjects like literature. Of course students have a choice, but at fifteen, most students don't have much reasons to choose beyond "I wanna follow my friends". I remember opting for the Arts stream even when I qualified for the Sciences at fifteen, and was actually *personally counselled against it* by my teachers, until I made it absolutely clear that I had no interest in becoming a doctor or an engineer or whatever, and that I wanted to study literature. Unfortunately, even if there were brilliant students interested in literature at that age, they were always diverted into the Science stream, at the cost of a great loss to the Humanities.

vovin said...

To Poseidon - I think you should read article by Saharil in New Malaysian Essay about Bahasa Melayu.

If you feel uncomfortable with word "Diskusi", then you should know there are so many English words that evolved from another language too. Including Coffee.

Peace! :P

Sharon, are you using streamyx email? I want to give you a few writers contact number for your readings at seksan's stuff. Thank You.

bibliobibuli said...

vovin - now using . sorry for confusion. and many thanks.

catr - agree with you entirely about the streaming in schools. it's just crazy! and it sends out all the wrong signals about the value of the arts.

you could well be right about the teaching of malay literature.

poseidon - thanks for the diversion. i really hate the coinings from english too.

Yusuf/Martin said...

Surely the problem is that pupils are not gaining access to important literature at the time when they are most open to new ideas.

There is an entire dumbing down right across the educational board, it needs to be dealt with NOW.

Even Anwar Ibrahim has recently mentioned this sad fact.

Anonymous said...

The English language did take a lot of words from other languages but then it didn't turn around and complain about how bad and decadent the cultures of those sources of languages are.

animah said...

It's hard to find good Malay works in bookshops. Can someone point me to any? I have tried looking for Pak Samad and Usman Awang's work but just encounter romances.

Isn't it DBP's job to promote the great literary works instead of bemoaning the fact that it doesn't sell. For starters, at least publish them.

ainee said...

I am glad when we had the same issue for our tutorial task. I was an avid reader since I was little and knows what's good and what's not. I seriously don't get it when my friends told me (when I was reading Faisal Tehrani's book) "Buku ni susahlah. Nak kena fikir lebih (This book is difficult to be read. Need to do more thinking)". What a shame. I was speechless, shocked, and very worried about it. What's becoming of young Malaysians?

Thus, pop novel, although it is catchy and fun, readable for teenagers, but it does not have much substance. In my opinion, it can be solved if the reading habit is instilled during childhood.

Nisah Haji Haron said...

For good Malay books, try - it's an online bookstore that promotes a lot of good Malay books, excluding the pop novels.

Poseidon said...

another thing i should add. the grammar's most probably changed in 20 years.

'malaysia boleh' is actually grammatically wrong; it should be 'malaysia dapat'... so it is confusing for some students who have to learn that this and that is accepted, and the next year they learn that it's not.

sorry for yet another diversion!

Anonymous said...

"you can your names", Bib ? actually I prefer to bottle mine :)