Friday, October 09, 2009

Anwar Ridhwan on the Malay Literary Landscape

I am happy that a few young writers such as Faisal Tehrani, Nisah Haron, Mawar Shafie and SM Zakir are still producing serious literature but I would like to see more youngsters doing so. ... [They aren't because] That is the influence from the popular culture. Today, people want recognition fast. People want more royalty. So they prefer to produce popular rather than serious literature. When you write serious literature, you have to be patient before recognition comes your way. ... It is also related to our school system, our reading habits and the level of discussion in society. All of them have not come to an intellectual level where it stimulates good writing. So it is difficult to get writers who can think seriously about life, people, the environment and culture.
Bissme S talks to Malaysia's new literary laureate, Datuk Dr Mohd Anuar Rethwan, alias Anwar Ridhwan in The Sun about the problems facing the Malay literary scene, and why there are so few non-Malays on it.

Asked whether Malay literature can appeal to the international market, the author says :
We have very good Malay literary works. But producing good work is not enough. You need to translate these into English and other foreign languages, and most important of all, you need to promote and advertise these works. We have been translating some works but we have not been promoting these books aggressively outside the country. Mark Twain said, “Many a small thing has been made large by the right kind of advertising.”
On Dewan Bahasa's not playing an active role in promoting Malay literature, he says :
To be fair, DBP is trying to be effective. But most of their staff are young and inexperienced. I believe they should work with outside publishers so the quality of their books can be improved. ... They should not only work with Malay publishers and distributors. They must also work with Chinese and Indian publishers as long as these publishers are willing to publish books in Malay. ... I have worked with DBP and I know the responsibility put on DBP is very heavy. They must have good in-house training for their staff. They must also learn to work fast. When they get a manuscript they must publish it within three to six months. But this is not the case. Some writers have to wait from one to two years to see their work published.
I would so like to see good Malay novels available in translation - not only for the international market, but in our own bookshops here too.

The Sun also has this very interesting guide to laureates past (Click to full size.) :

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