Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Malaysia. Show all posts

Thursday 24 August 2023

Award-winning writer Saras Manickam dishes about authorial ego, complicated women and race discrimination in Malaysia in My Mother Pattu

 

Courtesy of Author


About the Book


My Mother Pattu (Penguin SEA, 2023).

 

Deeply humane, in turn wry and humorous, the stories in this collection haunt readers with their searing honesty. Authentic and unsentimental, each story celebrates the resilience of the human spirit even as it challenges comfortable conventions about identity, love, family, community, and race relations.

Saras Manickam, courtesy of Sharon Bakar

About the Author


Saras Manickam won the regional prize for Asia in the 2019 Commonwealth Short Story Contest. In 2021, her story was included in the Bloomsbury anthology, The Art and Craft of Asian Stories

 

Having worked as a teacher, teacher-trainer, copywriter, and writer, Saras Manickam’s various work experiences enabled insights into characters, and life experiences, shaping the authenticity which mark her stories. 

 

My Mother Pattu is her debut collection of stories. She lives and works in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.


_________________

 

EC: Congratulations on your brilliant short story collection, My Mother Pattu. I’m delighted to see the love it’s been getting. I’ve not enjoyed a short story collection this much in a while. I’m curious: many of the stories are set in Mambang (which also means haunting/spirit). Is your Mambang a fictional town or based on a real town (e.g. Mambang di Awan, Perak)? 

 

SM:  Thank you, Elaine, for your very kind words. It’s rather affirming that My Mother Pattu resonates with readers.

 

Mambang is not a real town. It’s fictional, and therefore gives me the freedom to craft the streets, houses, places in it. It frees you up, you know what I mean?

 

Wednesday 2 August 2023

Tan Twan Eng discusses The House of Doors

Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng’s latest novel The House of Doors has just been included on the longlist for the Booker Prize. Devika Misra recently attended An Evening with Tan Twan Eng in Singapore and here paraphrases some of the conversation.




The House of Doors is a multi layered yet very readable work of historical fiction. The narrative explores Tan Twan Eng's  characteristic themes of love, loss, longing and betrayal, and is set in colonial Malaya, as are his previous works, The Gift of Rain (2007), and The Garden of Evening Mists ( 2012). But this time Tan Twan Eng has taken the arguably audacious step of fictionalizing legendary writer Somerset Maugham. Maugham had in fact himself fictionalized the tale of crime and scandal that is narrated to him by the female protagonist in The House of Doors. She is part of the expatriate community in Penang; he portrays her, and her community, with subtle criticism and nuanced sympathy. 

Tan Twan Eng was inevitably asked: what was the genesis of The House of Doors?

TTE : "Well, actually there are two origins for this novel. One of them is Somerset Maugham and the other one is Dr. Sun Yat- Sen…I first read Somerset Maugham's short story The Letter when I was in my teens. I loved it very much. I found it very gripping and exciting. I was even more intrigued when I found out that he had based The Letter on an actual murder trial, which had taken  place in Kuala Lumpur in 1910. The murder trial of Ethel Proudlock, who was accused of murdering a man she claimed had tried to rape her. The only problem with her justification of killing him was that she shot him five times, … six times, and four in the back as he was running away. So there was all this scandal about Ethel Proudlock. I felt that this would make a very interesting novel about how Somerset Maugham came to write and hear about this one. That's how it started. So I had Somerset Maugham, except I didn't know what to do with him, because obviously the story isn't substantial enough for a full-length novel."

Sunday 18 July 2021

On Naming Malaysian Chinese Characters guest post by Elizabeth Wong


Elizabeth Wong is Malaysian and grew up in Kuala Lumpur. She currently works as a writer, author and geologist in London. Liz is interested in stories of Malaysia and also of this large world we live in — deserts, seas, rocks. She has degrees in Geology and English from Yale University and Imperial College London. Her debut novel, We Could Not See The Stars, has just been published by John Murray. 

Han’s uneventful life in a sleepy fishing village is disturbed when a strange man arrives, asking questions about his mother. Han doesn’t trust Mr Ng, but his cousin Chong Meng is impressed with the stories of his travels and tales of a golden tower. Together they steal Han's only memento of his mother, before disappearing. On a faraway island, across the great Peninsula and across the seas, the forest of Suriyang is cursed. Wander in and you will return without your memories. Professor Toh has been researching the forest of Suriyang for years. He believes that the forest hides something that does not wish to be discovered. An ancient civilization. A mysterious golden tower. Chong Meng is tangled up in the professor’s plans to discover the truth about Suriyang. Han travels the breadth of the Peninsula to find his cousin before it is too late. How much will Han sacrifice to discover who he really is? 

Here, Liz discusses the complexities of naming Malaysian Chinese characters.

Thursday 3 December 2020

Backlist books: The Golden Chersonese by Isabella Bird

Backlist books is a column by Lucy Day Werts that focuses on enduring, important works from or about Asia. This post is about The Golden Chersonese and the Way Thither, as it was originally titled, which details the author’s travels through China and Southeast Asia from December 1878 to February 1879, and was published in 1883. The book consists of Bird’s letters to her sister, “unaltered, except by various omissions and some corrections as to matters of fact”. She says they lack “literary dress” because she wishes to convey her “first impressions in their original vividness”.

Readers will be favourably impressed by Bird’s appetite for the unfamiliar and tolerance for heat, mud and pests, whether she is drinking from a fresh coconut fetched by a tame monkey, slipping down from the back of an uncooperative elephant or discovering leeches feasting on her bloodied ankles.

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read The Golden Chersonese, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

Tuesday 4 August 2020

Elaine Chiew Chats With Professor Malachi Edwin Vethamani, Malaysian poet and short story writer.

Photo Credit: Chris Leong


Malachi Edwin Vethamani is a Malaysian-born Indian poet, writer, critic, bibliographer and professor. He is currently Head, School of English, University of Nottingham Malaysia. He has two volumes of poems, Complicated Lives (2016) and Life Happens (2017), and a collection of short stories, Coitus Interruptus and Other Stories Happens (2017). His research on Malaysian literature in English led to the publication of A Bibliography of Malaysian Literature in English (2015) and two edited volumes of Malaysian literature which cover 60 years of Malaysian poetry, Malchin Testament: Malaysian Poems (2017) and short-stories, Ronggeng-Ronggeng: Malaysian Short Stories (2020).


 

EC: Welcome to Asian Books Blog, Malachi. Great to have you here. Your most recent publication, an anthology of short stories which you compiled and edited, Ronggeng-Ronggeng, has a Table of Contents that reads like a Who’s Who in the Malaysian short story. What was the impetus for this project, what are your hopes for the anthology, and how did you go about the selection process? 

 

MEV: I wanted to bring together a volume of short stories that is representative of Malaysian short story writing from the 1950s till the present. The two existing significant collections of short stories were compiled and edited by Lloyd Fernando in 1968 and 1981 and were republished in 2005 but are generally unavailable. Ronggeng-Ronggeng is one of the outcomes of my research on Malaysian literature in English and I wanted a volume of Malaysian short stories that showcased the works of a range of writers, the new, emerging and the established. I read all the published works that were available and then went on to select the stories and get permission from the writers to include their works for this collection. It is my hope that this collection will contribute to more scholarship on Malaysian literature in English.

 

EC: In your illuminating precis on the development of the short story as a form in Malaysia, you wrote that Malaysians writing in English have a distinct flavour, for example, in the use of Manglish or other vernacular – how important is it to retain this characteristic within the tradition of a national literature, and how has this played out nationally versus internationally, where big publishing houses may not yet recognise or appreciate local tongues and the hybridity it brings to British English as a global (though colonial) standard?

 

MEV: I believe that it is essential that Malaysian writing in English is recognisable as a distinct flavour both in the linguistic and literary dimensions. Malaysian English, in its full spectrum, ranges from the standard form to the non-standard form (Manglish). Between these two poles, there is a range of Malaysian English which contributes towards a national identity. This emerges not only in the linguistic forms but also in the literary dimension, the idiomatic expressions and local images that are used in the works. The multi-cultural mix in Malaysia further contributes to the hybridity in Malaysian English. It is a part of World Englishes, just as British English is a variety of the English language. The fact that Malaysian writers have won international literary prizes is indicative of the contribution Malaysian writers make to contemporary Literature in English worldwide. Sadly, at the national level, Malaysian writing in English remains in the margins as it is not considered part of national Malaysian literature as only literary works in Bahasa Melayu (the Malay language) is included in this literary canon.

Wednesday 29 April 2020

Translating literary works from the Malay world, Nazry Bahrawi in conversation with Nicky Harman


Dr Nazry Bahrawi, Singapore University of Technology & Design

What aroused your interest in translation, and what was the first piece you ever translated?

My journey to literary translation began as an academic interest. As a doctoral student reading comparative literature at the University of Warwick, I was supervised by Susan Bassnett, a household name in translation theory. So, while my thesis wasn’t directly about translation, I began to explore this field of study first through conversations with her. Today, I continue to research into translation to unveil its multifaceted role at shaping what scholars call ‘world literature’. As an indication of just how complicated translation can get, I’ve published a comparative analysis of the Bahasa Melayu and Bahasa Indonesia versions of Syed Hussein Alatas’ seminal book The Myth of the Lazy Native and found that the former sharpens the ethnic divide between Malays and Chinese in line with the Malaysian ruling party’s (UMNO) ideology of ketuanan Melayu (Malay supremacy). This affirms the proposal that translation is mired in practices of patronage and power as the translation theorist AndrĂ© Lefevere had pointed out in his book Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. This was one of my earliest academic essays. It’d convinced me to dive deeper into translation research.

After my studies in 2013, I returned to Singapore. This was when my first foray into literary translation as practice began. Then, literary translation was starting to gain traction in my multilingual city-island, though there'd been attempts in the past. I was invited to deliver a public lecture about translation, and I was excited to share what I’ve learnt with others. After the lecture, I was approached by the playwright Nadiputra, a Cultural Medallion winner in Singapore, to translate a musical that he was writing from Bahasa to English. I said yes, and the result was a bilingual publication titled Muzika Lorong Buang Kok (Lorong Buang Kok: The Musical), a play about the last kampong (village) in urban Singapore. I’ve found the process to be nothing short of cathartic. Embodying first-hand some of the challenges I’ve read about made the practice of translation even more complex than I've imagined, and this made it alluring – an enigma that’s inviting me to explore its depths. Today, I’ve translated short stories and poems, surtitles for a theatrical adaptation of Anthony Burgess' A Clockwork Orange, subtitles for a 1960 black-and-white Malay movie as well as judged a translation contest. Most recently, I partook in a performance-lecture about my process as a literary translator.

Wednesday 26 June 2019

Nicky Harman interviews Jeremy Tiang, Singaporean writer, translator and playwright


Photo credit: Edward Hill

Nicky: When you were growing up, what were the first Chinese-language stories you came across, and what drew you to them?

Jeremy: Growing up in a former British colony can be a destabilizing experience. Singapore's official languages are English, Chinese (meaning Mandarin), Malay and Tamil, and there were always several languages swirling around me ― some of which I felt I was being encouraged to know (the English in the Enid Blyton books my parents bought us, the Mandarin they sent me to a neighbour to learn) as well as others I had less access to (the Cantonese they sometimes used with each other, the Tamil my dad occasionally spoke on the phone).  I encountered Chinese stories in all kinds of ways, on TV and in my school textbooks, but often freighted with cultural baggage: there was a weight of obligation on us, as English-educated people, to hang on to our Chinese heritage. It wasn't until I got some distance from Singapore, by moving to the UK for university, that I was able to enjoy Chinese-language literature on its own terms. While I came to appreciate the grounding I had received in Singapore, particularly in secondary school, I don't think I read a Chinese novel for pleasure till I was in my twenties. Once I was able to do that, I quickly developed a taste for it. And being a writer of English and a lover of Chinese fiction, it was a logical progression to literary translation ― the best way I could think of to get right inside these books.

Friday 29 March 2019

Circumstance out now in the UK

Rosie Milne's novel Circumstance, which published in Asia last November, is now available in the UK

Rosie is the editor of Asian Books Blog.  Her previous novels are How to Change Your Life, Holding the Baby and Olivia & Sophia - a re-telling of the life of Tom Raffles, the founder of Singapore, through the fictional diaries of his first wife, Olivia, who died young, and his second wife, Sophia, who outlived him.

Circumstance is set in the jungles of colonial Malaya in the 1920s.  It explores what happens when an adoring young bride is met on the doorstep of her  new home by her husband's former mistress.

It is 1924 and the British rule Malaya. Frank is a colonial administrator in a remote district deep in the jungle. Rose is the innocent young bride he’s just brought out from England. Nony is the native mistress he’d previously abandoned, along with their four children.

Thursday 25 October 2018

Backlist books: The Annotated Malay Archipelago by Alfred Russel Wallace (edited by John van Wyhe)

Backlist books is a column by Lucy Day Werts that focuses on enduring, important works from or about Asia.

This post is about The Annotated Malay Archipelago, a version of the book that 19th-century naturalist Alfred Russel Wallace wrote based on journals from his eight-year journey among the islands of Southeast Asia several years after his return to England. It was originally published in two volumes in 1869, and has never been out of print.

Wallace, a contemporary and correspondent of Charles Darwin, helped develop, or at least accepted early on, Darwin’s theory of natural selection and plotted what is now known as the Wallace Line, which separates the two ecologically distinct zones of Asia and Australia.

Contemporary readers will probably wince at Wallace’s “kill and collect” approach to studying exotic birds and mammals and abhor his characteristically Victorian racist generalisations about the physical and moral characteristics of the Asian people he encountered. Nevertheless, his work is worth reading. Wallace was an intrepid adventurer intent on studying creatures in far-flung lands, and his fascination with the wonders of the natural world continues to inspire joy.

See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read The Annotated Malay Archipelago, or what you should know about it even if you never do!

Friday 13 July 2018

Mediating Islam guest post by Janet Steele

Janet Steele is associate professor of media and public affairs, and international affairs, at George Washington University, USA. She is the author of Email dari Amerika (Email from America) and Wars Within: The Story of Tempo, an Independent Magazine in Soeharto's Indonesia. She has just brought out Mediating Islam: Cosmopolitan Journalisms in Muslim Southeast Asia.

Mediating Islam asks: what is Islamic journalism? It examines day-to-day journalism as practiced by Muslim professionals at five exemplary news organisations in Malaysia and Indonesia.  At Sabili, established as an underground publication, journalists are hired for their ability at dakwah, or Islamic propagation. At Tempo, a news magazine banned during the Soeharto regime, the journalists do not talk much about sharia law; although many are pious and see their work as a manifestation of worship, the Islam they practice is often viewed as progressive or even liberal. At Harakah reporters support an Islamic political party, while at Republika they practice a "journalism of the Prophet." Secular news organisations, too, such as Malaysiakini, employ Muslim journalists.

In her guest post for Asian Books Blog, Janet talks about the generosity of her sources in the world of Islamic journalism, in the years leading up to the recent Malaysian general election.

Tuesday 12 June 2018

First Encounter by James Rush

The Very Short Introductions series from Oxford University Press (OUP) contains hundreds of titles in almost every subject area. These pocket-sized books introduce a new subject quickly. OUP's expert authors combine facts, analysis, perspective, new ideas, and enthusiasm to make interesting and challenging topics highly readable.

James Rush is Professor of History at Arizona State University, where he has taught since 1990. He has served as director of Arizona State University's Program for Southeast Asian Studies and as a consultant to The Asia Society, El Colegio de Mexico, and the Rockefeller Brothers Fund.  He is the author of several books, including Opium to Java: Revenue Farming and Chinese Enterprise in Colonial Indonesia, 1860-1910; The last Tree: Reclaiming the Environment in Tropical Asia; and Hamka’s Great Story: A Master Writer’s Vision of Islam for Modern Indonesia. He has just brought out Southeast Asia: A Very Short Introduction.

James says his new book: "strives to tell the complicated story of Southeast Asia’s multi-ethic, multi-religious societies and its eleven contemporary nations both simply and legibly. Its historic arc focusing on kingdoms, colonies, and nations and its analysis of the region’s deep social structures provide a clear narrative around which otherwise random details and anecdotal information (or the day’s news) can be understood in the context of larger patterns of history, politics, and society. In it, the modern Southeast Asian societies of Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, and Malaysia and the region’s other six countries come into sharp focus."

Here James provides a personal account of how his interest in Southeast Asia came about.

Wednesday 17 January 2018

500 words from Ivy Ngeow

Proverse Hong Kong is a publishing house with long-term, and expanding, regional and international connections. This week sees a double bill of posts about Proverse. Yesterday, Gillian Bickley, Proverse co-publisher, talked about the company's aims, and development. Today, Ivy Ngeow, winner of the 2016 Proverse Prize for Fiction, talks about her new novel, Cry of the Flying Rhino, which is published by the company.

Ivy was born and raised in Johor Bahru, Malaysia, but she studied in London, and her work - journalism and fiction - has appeared in many publications in Malaysia, Singapore, and the UK

Cry of the Flying Rhino is set in 1996, in Malaysia and Borneo. It is told from multiple viewpoints and in multiple voices. Malaysian Chinese family doctor Benjie Lee has had a careless one-night stand with his new employee – mysterious, teenage Talisa. Talisa’s arms are covered in elaborate tattoos, symbolic of great personal achievements among the Iban tribe in her native Borneo. Talisa falls pregnant, forcing Benjie to marry her. Benjie, who relished his previous life as a carefree, cosmopolitan bachelor, struggles to adapt to life as a husband and father. Meanwhile, Minos – an Iban who has languished ten years in a Borneo prison for a murder he didn’t commit – is released into English missionary Bernard’s care. One day, Minos and his fellow ex-convict Watan appear on Benjie's doorstep. Now Benjie must confront his wife’s true identity and ultimately his own fears.

So, over to Ivy…

Friday 27 October 2017

Why I published Pai Naa by Phil Tatham

Not long before the outbreak of World War Two a young British woman, Nona Baker, sailed to Malaya to join her eldest brother, Vin, the tuan besar (general manager), of the world’s largest tin mine. When the Japanese army invaded, Nona and Vin hid out in the jungle with Chinese communist guerrillas - the people who would later become the communist terrorists of the Malayan Emergency. By the time the British surrendered to the Japanese in February 1942, nearly all white civilians had left Malaya - but Nona and Vin stayed on in the jungle. For three years, Nona, now known as Pai Naa (White Nona), the name given her by the Chinese guerrillas, avoided capture by the Japanese and betrayal by spies before at last she was delivered safely into the care of war hero Freddie Spencer Chapman.

Pai Naa is Nona’s account her time in the jungle - with her hair cut short she worked alongside the guerrillas, and with the guerrillas she suffered malaria, dysentery, beriberi, hunger and above all, fear.

Nona chronicled her experiences with assistance from Dorothy Thatcher and Robert Cross. Pai Naa was first published in 1959. UK-based Monsoon Books has just published a reissue.  Since Nona, Dorothy, and Robert are now all dead, Monsoon’s publisher, Phil Tatham, here speaks on behalf of the book they jointly produced, and explains why he republished Pai Naa for a twenty-first century readership. 

So, over to Phil…

Friday 17 March 2017

William L. Gibson on trilogies

William L. Gibson is the author of Singapore Black, Singapore Yellow and Singapore Red, which together form the Detective Hawksworth Trilogy, hardboiled historical thrillers set in late 19th Century Malaya and Singapore. Gibson says he always wanted to write a trilogy, and he here explains why he decided the three-novel format “would be the best way to tell the story I wanted to tell.”

Thursday 7 April 2016

Buku Fixi at London Book Fair

The London Book Fair (LBF) takes place next week, April 12 -14. For the first time ever, there will be a Malaysian booth showcasing independent publishers with no government or corporate funding. The country’s biggest independent publisher, the award-winning Buku Fixi, which specialises in contemporary urban fiction in both Malay and English, will be there. Moreover, the company’s English-language imprint, Fixi Novo, is to launch an ambitious new trilogy of anthologies during the Fair.

Thursday 29 January 2015

Indie Spotlight: Professor Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof

Indie Spotlight is our monthly column on self-publishing. Here, Raelee Chapman talks to prolific indie author Professor Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof, from the Cultural Centre, University of Malaya

Professor Ghulam-Sarwar Yousof  used Partridge Publishing Singapore, an imprint of Author Solutions LLC, a Penguin Random House Company, to publish two works on culture/theatre and three creative literary works in 2014 alone. I asked him about his play The Trial of Hang Tuah the Great, and his short story collection Tok Dalang and Stories of Other Malaysians.  Both express his identity, and his concerns, as a Malaysian writer who writes in English, and both are must reads for fans and students of Southeast Asian literature. These works, and all Professor Ghulam-Sawar Yousof’s other titles, are available from Amazon, and are listed too on the Partridge website.