Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cooking Up A Stormkitchen

Author and Publisher Amri Ruhayat (aka Ruhayat X), talks to Bissme S. in The Sun and I think some of his comments are bound to stir up some lively discussion.

On the philosophy behind his imprint, Stormkitchen, he says :
A stormkitchen is this cheap cooker you use on camping trips. It is simple and utilitarian. That is the underlying philosophy: to make writing fun. Even frivolous. ... My belief and experience is that young Malays are repressed. Our society behaves like it does not welcome young ideas … That these youngsters have no value. Fair enough. But we still need to give the young an outlet to express themselves safely before it gets too late. Otherwise it will be like a pressure cooker without a safety valve. But there are not many places where they can be creative and expressive. I wanted to give them one such platform. If they go to mainstream publications, they are unlikely to get published. ... Maybe it is simply the job of the mainstream anywhere to not tolerate alternative viewpoints. Or maybe it is simply because often there are no messages in these "karya picisan" (unimportant works). When I first started out I was often asked: "What is the message of the story? What is the moral?" But heck, not every story needs to have a moral purpose.
No moral values writ large, to cram down kids' throats?? *Blink*

I feel the same, but Amri says it better :
A writer needs to be aware that whatever he writes will have an influence on at least someone. If words have no weight then people would not have burnt books or prosecuted writers throughout history. But honestly, a writer of fiction should write for no reason other than to tell a story. It is not for the writer to guide society. In the realm of fiction, the story should operate on its own moral terms. That is what separates it from reality. ... I do believe that writers have a responsibility, but that responsibility is simply that they should be true to themselves. Anyone who writes deliberately with a subtext in mind is being manipulative, if not naive. Today you cannot dictate what the subtext is going to be anymore.
He also talks about his challenges in running the magazine Elarti. Besides the financial burden he says the publication hasn't been appearing because :
... we just don’t get enough quality contributions. And my bar is not set very high, so that ought to give you something to think about.
And not enough writers are prepared to challenge convention, which, he says, may be a result of upbringing :
Traditionally, the Malays are not outspoken. Even when we criticise, we are very polite. We do not say things directly to your face. For example, if you asked us to do something, we always say "Insya Allah" even when we already know we are not going to do it. It is one of the things I admire about this culture, but these days it is not always the right solution.
He also reckons :
Culture has become stagnant and stereotypical here.
Do the rest of you reckon things are as bleak as Amri paints them? I see writing in English really taking off in Malaysia ... at all levels. But am not at all qualified to talk about writing in Malay. And if Amri's right - then is there anything we can do?

1 comment:

CCC said...

Kudos to Amri Ruhayat! I am tired of mainly finding 'moral storybooks' and 'merchandising books'(Dora, Ben10, Disney, etc) for kids at the local bookshops. Where are the likes of Anthony Browne, Mem Fox, Sally Lloyd-Jones, etc??! Bring on the fun, quirky, sweet picture books!