One after my own heart, Umapagan Ampikaipakan admits to a shameless book addiction in today's New Straits Times. Uma, you may remember from some time back is on the trail of the Great Malaysian Novel and believes he may be a step closer :
Recently, I found such joy in Preeta Samarasan’s Evening is the Whole Day. A novel I had hastily purchased, at Heathrow Airport, while rushing to my departure gate. I knew nothing about it except that it had a pretty cover — orange and yellow and green and turquoise — I could not help but want it. It was only later, once I had settled comfortably into my seat, safely buckled in, when I realised that it was, in fact, written by a Malaysian.But what, he asks, about the great Malaysian novelist?
Now I don’t know about you, but each time I pick up something by a Malaysian author, I am both excited and apprehensive. I hope for the best but expect the worst. Because when you ’ve had your heart broken as many a time as I have, you eventually learn to be a little cautious.
A caution that proved to be entirely unnecessary when it came to Samarasan’s effort. I finished it in one sitting.
Her rich and beautiful prose had me enthralled for most of the 13 hours that it took for me to get home.
I was looking at the biographies of some of our authors who have recently received wide and critical acclaim only to discover that they live in France, Glasgow, London and Cape Town. I began to wonder why they seemed to be everywhere else. To be anywhere but here.I gave this matter some thought too, a while back.
Maybe it’s because what they do is so under-appreciated over here.
Maybe it’s because they had to leave the suffocating surroundings of their youth to be able to produce something so deep and unclouded.
Because for the grass to be greener on this side, you have to be on that side.
Then again, maybe it’s because we feel more Malaysian when we are abroad. We feel special. We feel unique. We feel one of a kind. So much so, that we gain more of ourselves when we are overseas than we ever do when we are at home.
Maybe it’s true what Theroux says, that “enlightenment will always involve the poetry of departures”.