Locking On Interlok (because I can’t think of a better pun)
Friday, 14th January, 2011 § 9 Comments
So apparently that pesky book with that pesky word is selling like hotcakes right now, so says Nisah Haron. I’m talking about Abdullah Hussain’s Interlok which has created so much controversy because it contains the word ‘paria’ which is deemed deragatory by the Indian community in Malaysia. Abdullah Hussain’s book has been around since at least 1967 when it won the consolation prize in a writing competition. So why has a 44-year old novel created so much ire among the Indian community now? Because the story has been chosen as part of the Malaysian secondary school curriculum for Malay Literature in 2011. Nobody cared about the book all this time because, let’s face it, who reads in Malaysia? And I’m guessing not many among the Indian community read Malay novels as a hobby or otherwise they would have burned the darn book decades ago. But now that the book will be made required reading for 17 year olds, all of a sudden we’re looking at book burnings and calls for a boycott.
But as Ms. Nisah wrote in her blog, the silver lining in this sordid affair is that a Malay novel written by a national laureate other than A. Samad Said is flying off the shelves. It took a book burning for Malaysians to pay due respect to one of their living literary treasures. Admittedly, some of them might just want to flip to the page with that word just to see what the fuss is all about but hey, at least they’re reading.
By the way, I’m not going to debate who is right or wrong here. I can see good points made by both defenders and haters of the book and besides, the Malaysian chattering classes have inundated the blogosphere with their two-cents on this matter. I’m not going to jump into a crowded pool. Although I would like to say one thing. Book burning? BAD. I don’t care what book you burn. Heck, I will even make a frowny face at you even if you burn Mein Kampf (and yes, I can see the irony in burning Hitler’s diatribe of a book).
If all this brouhaha is making you curious about Abdullah Hussain’s novel but you don’t read Malay, the Malaysian National Institute of Translation has the English version in stock. It’s RM30 for the Peninsula and RM35 for Sabah and Sarawak (not including shipping). Check it out on their website.
But if you do read Malay, then Interlok (Edisi Pelajar) can be had for just RM20 of your hard earned cash at Ujana Ilmu. This ‘Edisi Pelajar’ is the edited for school edition but it still has that word.
The original unabridged edition and the English translation can also be found at MPH outlets.
Happy Reading…or book burning. Whatever, it’s your money.