Sunday, 18 May 2008

Towards a 20th century Malaysian book canon

If you were to compile, say, 50 Malaysian books that you should read, what would this list consist of? The problems of canons are well-known – elitist! subjective! time-bound! – but let's try giving it a go anyway.

Books by foreigners but set in Malay(si)a are included. But each book needs to be somehow important, iconic, worthy of discussion (but you don't need to LIKE it). A good rule of thumb: If you hadn't read the book, you would have at least known enough about it to mention it. (Or: ... you would have at least pretended to have read it).

Let's keep it to the 20th century and rank in alphabetical order of author. A baker's dozen to start with:

A. Samad Said: Salina
Adibah Amin: As I Was Passing (I & II)
Burgess, Anthony: The Malayan Trilogy
Fauconnier, Henri: The Soul of Malaya
Kassim Ahmad: Hadis - Satu Penilaian Semula
Lat: Kampung Boy
Lat: Mat Som
Mahathir Mohamad: The Malay Dilemma
Rehman Rashid: A Malaysian Journey
Shahnon Ahmad: Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan
Shahnon Ahmad: SHIT
Tamar Jalis: Bercakap Dengan Jin
Usman Awang: Puisi-Puisi Pilihan

33 comments:

Anonymous said...

I would add to this list

Khoo Boo Teik's The Paradox of Mahathirism
Christopher Bayly and Tim Harper's Forgotten Armies and Forgotten Wars
Kassim Ahmad's Universiti Kedua

sharaad kuttan said...

Also, perhaps you should call it a "literary canon" rather than a :book canon".

danny said...

Lee Kok Liang: Flower In The Sky
Sabri Zain: Face Off
Lloyd Fernando: Scorpion Orchid & Green Is The Colour

danny said...

Arenawati: Sandera

Not sure where you draw the line when it comes to academic books:

Terence Gomez & KS Jomo: Malaysia’s Political Economy: Politics, Patronage and Profits

J.M. Gullick: Indigenous Political Systems of Western Malaya (or indeed and any of the other works by Gullick)

Amir said...

But Sharaad, it will also include books of very little literary merit!

danny said...

... like Khalid Jefri's "50 Dalil..." ?

Amir said...

Yes, like that!

Folks at Facebook may also pitch in with suggestions or denunciations here.

MMcrossings said...

eerr.. mona gersang? not canonical, but popular at one time..heheh, those were the days before the internet, and vhs videos

So the list isn't a lot to start with.

sales of URTV and Mangga says a lot!

Fikri said...

Adik Datang, A. Samad Said

sufeh said...

What about The Jungle Is Neutral?

Amir said...

Sufeh, That book is on my follow-up baker's dozen that has been posted on Facebook :-)

MMCrossings: If you could choose between Mona Gersang and Permata Yang Hilang, which would you pick and why?

a malaysian in riyadh said...

My personal favourite is AZMI KHALID - Human Rights Advocate - A Tribute edited by CHANDRA MUZAFFAR. I have an extra copy, and am happy to poslaju to you, if you haven't read it.

aMiR

Amir said...

That's a 2002 book and so disqualified from this 20th century canon ;-)

Terra Shield said...

Badai Semalam by Khaijah Hashim

a malaysian in riyadh said...

Potong stim la you ni.
aMiR

Terra Shield said...

Sorry, it's supposed to be Khadijah Hashim

kimster said...

I'd go for:
1. Ujang's 'Aku Budak Minang'
2. Generation (Amir, Kam & Sheryll).
3. I Am Muslim (Dina Zaman)

Rob Spence said...

I think that "The Harmony Silk Factory" by Tash Aw deserves a mention.

Amir said...

The book is disqualified because this is a 20th century list.

Anonymous said...

Lega kerana saudara tak pilih bulu atau warna kulit. Suka lah tu.
aMiR

Amir said...

Good news! Off The Edge magazine has agreed to publish this report in its Merdeka issue, which goes on sale late August. I hope it can come out as a free separate booklet :-)

bibliobibuli said...

very good news, Amir!

fie the elf said...

sad to say i haven't read any books by malaysian authors. except yours. and jeffrey kitingan's. can't get any malaysian books here lah. but i'll catch up when im back in malaysia!

Anonymous said...

Tun Salleh Abas: Mayday for Justice

The Ahadiat Akashah ouevre from Creative Enterprise

fadz said...

Lagenda Budak Setan by Ahadiat is a must (the starter of so called popular novel phenomena, it has even been studied and presented by academics at DBP recently), but actually, the pioneer of pop element in malay fiction is Khadijah Hashim with Badai Semalam (the element of 'wanita lara', 'jalinan cinta dua kelas', romance) which has been followed by recent superstar writers, Aisya Sofea, Anis Ayuni, etc.

WARISAN by Abd Talib Hassan(?) is the 'cross-over' novel that grips popular/elitist readers alike for good novels with high commercial value (Creative tried again with Bukan Puteri Lindungan Bulan and succeed), and started the 'fiery' revolution of 'judge the book by its cover' started by Creative that shattered DBP's monopoly on fiction works at that time (quality and quantity). 5 years after dat, DBP tried following the 'nice cover' formula but failed.

The small book 'Hang Jebat dalam Kitab Hang Tuah' (i forgot the exact title) written by Kassim Ahmad, deconstructing the 'heroic' prejudice of Hang Tuah vs. Jebat. This is one of the book that started the debate on 'historical reevaluation', and influence Usman on JEBAT the drama and even politicians rephrasing the term 'derhaka'. The 'historical reevaluation' even found itself in occidentalism, recently in Faisal Tehrani's work.

Sulalatus Salatin, Hikayat Hang Tuah tak boleh masuk?

For fantasy: the Saga Artakusiad series by Ahmad Patria Abdullah, for sci-fi: Di.Ar.Ti by Rahmat Haroun (introducing the Malay readers that SF is also relevant for adults, which has been stereotyped as a 'buku budak-budak' from the 50's right even until now).

The "Arwad Muhammadiyah" book by Uztaz Ashaari, started the debate on "ajaran sesat" right until now (sebelum ni org tak sedar dan tak kenal).

"Tajul Muluk" is a must for Malay readers, kind of the FengShui/I-Ching for Malays, which is banned by KDN.

other considerable title:

"Anak Raja & Anak Papa" (Prince and the Pauper) by Tom Sawyer, translated by Za'ba. Za'ba terjemah dengan mengubah budaya barat dlm novel ni kepada budaya Melayu sepenuhnya. Buku yang sangat meletup zaman 50-an.

Anak Mat Lela Gila & Putera Gunung Tahan (novel satira Melayu pertama yang disambung pada 80-an dengan novel Tikus Rahmat dan Perlumbaan Kedua).

memoir Endang Gulingku oleh Arena Wati.

novel Imam oleh Abdullah Hussain (mengembalikan 'sastera Islam' dalam peta sastera dengan memperkanlkan penghujahan idea Islam atau risalah, yang diikuti ramai penulis sastera islam sekarang, lari daripada gaya 'dosa-taubat' yang biasa dilihat dalam sastera Islam sebelumnya seperti Mereka Yang Tertewas. Imam juga antara novel yang berani mencampur aduk pelbagai idea 'evolusi' dlm. Islam.

Hujan Pagi

Ceritalah Lagi (koleksi buku kanak-kanak paling popular)

Tok Rimau said...

BUKU:
Bercakap Dengan Jin - Tamar Jalis
Lagi Cerpen-cerpen Underground - Sharil dan Faizal Tehrani
Pelayaran Abdullah - Abdullah Munshi

GRAFIK NOVEL
Aku Budak Minang - Ujang
Kampung Boy - Lat

BLOOK
JONGKANG JONGKET - Mat jan
AYAK KITA BOS- Sinaga-naga dan Tok Rimau (Self promo nampak)

Amir said...

Tok Rimau, kanon ni utk buku abad ke-20 je le...

jiGOMorrison said...

Have you read "As I Please' and 'Nothing is Sacred' or by Salleh Ben Joned?

Tok Rimau said...

Opss. Terlebih sudah. Sori la amir, Tok baru pulang dari kembara mesin masa. Tok dah promote link ni, hopefully ramai lagi bagi cadangan.

Aku dah baca New Malaysian Essays 1. Aku nak cadangkan buku ini juga. Tahniah kerana projek buku clementino itu.

artisticklytouch said...

combat 1511 and 1526 - faisal tehrani

haNnancayuNk said...

Uggu Karmila - Ramlee Awang Murshid
buku nih membuatkan aku terbayang filem2 hollywood yg hebat2 :D

Anonymous said...

Novel Jibam.I think it was written by Ujang. I remember when it came out in the 80's my friends who were hardcore rockers were reading it and passing it around. And they rarely read. If a book managed to get the metal dudes to read i think it should be included in the list.And the novel was good too. Such a sad story.

P/S: Where can i buy Salleh Ben Joned's books and Usman Awang Puisi-Puisi Pilihan?

Penanak Nasik

Amir Muhammad said...

I have JIBAM but have not started reading it.

SBJ's new books are widely available, but Silverfish has all. And Usman's is in DBP shops.