Thursday, February 28, 2008


where are the malaysian writers? -part 2

in 1990 mario vargas llosa ran for peruvian presidency but lost to alberto fujimori who was later indicted for corruption and human right abuse. mario vargas llosa is a writer that i discovered rather late . someone gave me his famous novel aunt julia and the scriptwriter many years ago and it remained one of my most memorable and best loved books ever since. and this old review of the novel by william kennedy the author of ironweed in the NYT is a gem in its own right. this book was filmed as tune in tomorrow in 1990 , the year mario vargas llosa lost his presidency bid , starring peter falk and barbara hershey which unfortunately garnered only 40% approval rating on rotten tomatoes. i've not seen it but probably will download from ares P2P soon and see for myself how bad it is.

Mr llosa may have written a darkly comic book but he was also a serious politician. it'd probably be a very long time before we in malaysia can come up with people like him. We came close once. shahnon ahmad, our national laureate who infamously wrote SHIT among others was once a PAS candidate (if i recall correctly) . but the good people in kedah choose to elect a nobody instead.

anyway, i love this kind of comic writing . and kurt vonnegut is another author that i can never get tired off. (taken a small dose at a time). and he was not shy of making very acute political comments and have written essays and books on the state of american politics. here's an excerpt taken from here.

In his recent collection of essays, A Man Without A Country, he accused President George W. Bush of gathering "around him upper-crust C-students who know no history or geography". In a 10 May 2004 column for In These Times, entitled "Cold Turkey", he referred to our government leaders as "power-drunk chimpanzees". In another article he slyly pointed out that presidential candidates George W. Bush and John Kerry were "twins" -- "two Nordic, aristocratic multi-millionaires", both Yale men and both members of Skull and Bones Society. What's more, said Vonnegut, here they were running for president "at a time when entire vertebrate species" were in danger of "becoming, hey presto, nothing but skulls and bones".

and in the current race for the US presidential nominations there are tons of very fine writings in newpapers about the candidates , the policies and anything and everything ranging from boring political analyses to the seriously funny. and i just read one good op ed column on hillary clinton in nyt today, which you can also read it here.

but alas, in malaysia one will not very likely come across this kind of writing anytime soon. it's not yet our culture . we are just at par with vietnam or slightly better at best. there is no scope to be critical here. not in the mainstream media anyway. which is where it really counts. this is not to say that we won't have political writings in our maistream media. on the contrary. these few days leading to March 8 GE, there are more political writings than anybody have time to read in our papers. and they are invariably non objective as nicely described in this piece on the internet in malaysia today by aliran. here's an excerpt.

...the media reporting of opposition parties will probably be aimed at smearing their public image and subjecting them to public mockery.

In contrast, the media’s coverage of the ruling parties predictably will take the form of singing praises for the BN. Not surprisingly, it will also include political endorsements of the BN via paid advertisements and news reports coming from certain celebrities, well-known personalities as well as ordinary people who are projected as ‘representing’ the hopes and wishes of the entire ‘imagined community’ of Malaysians. Certain letters will be highlighted in the Letters to the Editor column, giving unqualified support to the incumbent parties.

and that's the thing. freedom of expression on the internet is alive and healthy. it's one bright spot and malysian hope. not so much due to malaysia government encouragement. they in fact are trying their best to DISCOURAGE this kind of freedom of expression by branding bloggers all kinds of names including monkeys. if they have their way they will stop all these , but even they realize that it is impossible to stem the tide.

but i've yet to hear or read anything from local writers (famous or otherwise) on the current election. who are they rooting for? which party? why? what are their take on particular candidates? they may be excluded from the main media, but there's no stopping them from writing in political party papers...harakah, DAP, pkr weeklies for example. and hell, if they are stupid enough to support BN, i'm interested to read them in main stream papers too. but so far, none! quiet as a mouse? how come?

but who knows, may be more and more malaysian writers will find enough moral courage to be brave and true to their conscience and will find ways to write 'without fear and favour' for the masses. and in this respect i salute amir muhammad and all those people that come up with New malaysian essays 1 (NME 1). i've not come round to read it yet but from all reports it's a good book....i'm waiting for a review in our local newspapers...(well, probably i have to wait for a long time) ...

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