Saturday, 11 January 2014
Taylor & Francis Online :: The art of fiction: Indian diaspora's gift to Malaysian fiction-writing descendants of other diasporas - Diaspora Studies -
A special request to friends of Rani Manicka: The paper includes a discussion of Rani Manicka's The Japanese Lover, a novel too long neglected by scholars. If any of you are in touch with her, please share this link with her so that she knows her wit and brilliance as a novelist have been noticed and appreciated.
I'm including the link here, but you may have problems connecting to it. If you do, and you're really interested to read the paper, please contact me with your email address so that I can send you a downloaded pdf version.
Taylor & Francis Online :: The art of fiction: Indian diaspora's gift to Malaysian fiction-writing descendants of other diasporas - Diaspora Studies -:
'via Blog this'
Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Friday, 10 August 2012
Sunday, 8 January 2012
Two thinkers as different as John Stuart Mill and Friedrich Nietzsche have voiced their sorrows over the style of modern life aided and abetted by literary mass production, which seems to leave the public no choice but an almost neurotic gobbling-up of an endless stream of sounds and sights and words--not to be remembered, not to be translated into productive enrichment, and not to be translated into "dreams," that "stuff" of which, according to Shakespeare, our world is made. In an article "Civilization," which appeared in the London and Westminster Review of April, 1836, John Stuart Mill wrote:
The world ... gorges itself with intellectual food, and in order to swallow the more, bolts it. Nothing is now read slowly, or twice over. ... He ... who should and would write a book, and write it in the proper manner of writing a book, now dashes down his first hasty thoughts, or what he mistakes for thoughts, in a periodical. And the public is in the predicament of an indolent man, who cannot bring himself to apply his mind vigorously to his own affairs, and over whom, therefore, not he who speaks most wisely, but he who speaks most frequently, obtains the influence.
And in a similar vein, though in a most different style, Nietzsche wrote in the preface of The Dawn of Day:
I have not been a philologist in vain; perhaps I am one yet: a teacher of slow reading. I even come to write slowly. At present it is not only my habit, but even my taste, a perverted taste, maybe--to write nothing but what will drive to despair every one who is in a hurry ... philology is now more desirable that ever before; ... it is the highest attraction and incitement in an age of "work": that is to say, of haste, of unseemly and immoderate hurry-scurry, which is intent upon "getting things done" at once, even every book, whether old or new. Philology itself, perhaps, will not "get things done" so hurriedly: it teaches how to read well: i.e. slowly, profoundly, attentively, prudently, with inner thoughts, with the mental doors ajar, with delicate fingers and eyes.
To sum up what has happened in our day and age: Communication has become part of a consumers' culture in which those who produce and those who receive are hardly distinguishable from each other because they are both the serfs of a life style of conformity and regulation. It is the basic tragedy and paradox of modern civilization and particularly of our own phase that the sermon of individualism has turned into the practice of conformity, that the ideology of education and persuasion through the spoken and printed word has become the reality of insensibility and numbness to meaning, and that the professed belief of the powers that be in all spheres of public life--political or cultural or economic--in the persuasive influence of the worded message is answered by increasing skepticism if not outright disbelief in the world itself.
--Leo Lowenthal, Literature and Mass Culture (1984)--
Wednesday, 3 August 2011
First, an apology for not updating this blog for so long. I was appointed Research Fellow at the Faculty of Modern Languages and Communication, Universiti Putra Malaysia (UPM) in January this year and have been busy writing academic papers, attending literature conferences and the like. So far, three papers have been accepted for publication, so I haven't been wasting my time and taxpayers' money. I've just submitted a fourth paper to a journal and will know its fate in a month or so.
Taking a break, I thought I would post a very short story I wrote in 2003, and which I sent to a group called Northernwriters in Ipoh. Not sure what they've done with it, if anything.
Incidentally, the only Malaysian novels in English published in the year 2003 were by South Asian writers. They are Love's Treacherous Terrain by Shoba Mano, The Banana Leaf Men by Aneeta Sundararaj, and Between Lives by K. S. Maniam. And then there was The Rice Mother by Rani Manicka (who lives abroad), published in 2002. I hadn't read any of the novels when I wrote the story, which is perhaps an indication that somehow, the lives and experiences of our South Asian Malaysians were very much part of the atmospherics (at least on the creative plane) at that time.
Here's my response to the ethereal signals. Enjoy!
The Bride from
This picture I have of her. A young woman newly married and newly arrived from
Is she crying? I don’t know. But I imagine that in her head is a confusion of questions.
Upstairs her husband sits at the marble-topped table with a bottle of whisky in one hand and a half-full glass in the other. As he has sat every evening since he brought her here, her new home in
She had found the photo that afternoon while putting away his freshly ironed shirts away in the dresser in their bedroom. How had it come to be there? Had he known Seroja before he came to her parents’ house in
But has he seen me, she had asked. What if he doesn’t like me? She wanted but didn’t dare to add: What if he doesn’t like the way I look? My dark skin? My protruding teeth? The fact that I’m now twenty-two? That I never went to school and can’t speak, read or write English?
Her parents had assured her that he had already seen a photo of her, and had no objections to her looks. If he had, would he have agreed to the marriage without even asking for a dowry? For him it is enough that you can cook well and keep house for him and give him children. That is all he is asking for.
She had seen him through the lattice screen as he sat in the living room with her parents and the matchmaker that afternoon, and her heart had started to race. He was more than she could ever have hoped for. He looked like a young god, fair-skinned, tall, well built, lean. He had the noble air of a lion, with his keen eyes, high-bridged nose, broad sloping forehead, and thick wavy hair. For reasons of propriety, her parents had not allowed her to bring out the tea. Instead Seroja, as the younger daughter, was given the duty. She noticed how he had kept his head down when Seroja entered the room, and had blushed when she brought him his cup of tea. A man of twenty-five, and still so shy with women? Her heart went out to him.
She didn’t see him again until their wedding day.
She had been fearful of what would happen on the wedding night. But she need not have been. He did not touch her. Nor did he speak to her. On the ship, he left her alone every evening in the cabin they shared with four other people, coming back to his bunk in the early hours of the morning, stumbling slightly over the metal trunk on the floor. At the port and on the rail journey to their home, he only spoke to ask her if she was hungry or thirsty. He never looked at her. At times she thought he was angry with her. But she could think of no reason why he should be, and so she attributed his reticence to shyness.
It wasn’t until they had lived together under the same roof that she knew something was wrong. He spent every evening sitting at the marble table with his bottle and glass. When she woke in the mornings she would find the space beside her empty and unslept in. She would get up and dutifully cook breakfast for him, lay out his clothes for work, and then wake him up where he had fallen asleep—at the marble table—with a gentle touch on the shoulder. He would rouse himself with a start, smelling of drink, eyes red-rimmed and unfocused; go to the bathroom, change in their bedroom, go down to the kitchen to eat. Then he was off and she would not see him again until lunchtime. He ate lunch alone in the dining room while she sat in the kitchen, wondering why he never thought of asking her to join him.
In the afternoons, he gave lessons at home. Then she saw a side of him that filled her with pride and sadness at the same time. He chatted. He made his students laugh. At times he yelled at them and even threw their books at them. On warm days, the lessons were conducted in the garden under the mango and cashew nut trees.
From the kitchen, she observed him. His energy, his vitality, his leonine maleness. The promise of a lively companion and a good father. But once the students were gone, he went straight to the cabinet where he kept his books and bottles. And it was back to the marble table until it was time for dinner, which, after the first week, she decided to serve him there.
A part of her knew this was not how marriage was meant to be. This was not the way her father behaved with her mother. But another part of her thought that perhaps it was all he wanted. Hadn’t her parents told her that he was content to have someone to cook for him and keep house for him? Maybe that was why he had not bothered with a dowry.
But hadn’t they also said that he wanted her to have his children?
The question so absorbs her that she forgets what has happened a few minutes ago. Her puzzlement at finding her sister’s photo, his anger when she asked him about it, her horror when he tore it up, and the desolation that drove her to the doorway at the back of the house where no one would see her.
She begins to make plans for the night, thinking about what she will wear, the perfumed oils she will use, the incense she will light, how to persuade him to sleep with her so that she can do what he wants and give him children.
There is no other way for her to think, because she cannot read. If she could, she would know that the name written in her father’s hand at the back of the photograph is not her sister’s, but her own.
Written on 18 February 2003