*This Post was imported from my old blog (2 years ago)*


That is one word I would use to describe my sentiment towards Malay fiction books.


Another word most apt to describe all the yawnings that went on whenever I even contemplate picking up a Malay novel.

My Love Affair….

….is as colourful as the heading above.

I love good books. But if medicine is my marriage, then fiction books would be my love affair. Like a love affair, it always induces guilty feelings. For example, whenever you spend your time with your lover, you feel you should use that time for your legally married partner.

That’s exactly how I feel with novels. Kalau baca novel…rasa bersalah sebab merasakan seolah-olah kena study. But love (unlike duty and a sense of responsibility) can cause you to lose all common sense. And that kind of disease should be avoided at all cost…but sometimes one can’t help it.

I grew up having to hide my reading from my parents. They thought that my reading habit is “melampau! Kalau baca buku pelajaran sama macam baca buku cerita, mesti dok dapat nombor satu sedia-sedia.”

I used to read books with no other source of light other than the one coming from a torchlight, hidden beneath a blanket. I used to bring books into the toilet and spent more than half an hour reading on the toilet seat. So in terms of the secrecy and the fear of being found out, my reading habit is just like a sordid love affair.

Now that I am all grown up, my parents has ceased lecturing me about books…

I love being grown up!

Reading History

I have started reading since I was six. My dad bought me all those ’siri kanak-kanak’ full with moral values. There were lots of pictures as well. I was very, very enthralled. But as I grew up, I have finished reading all my own books and my elder sister’s as well. There were no more children books to read. My dad refused to buy me any unless I became at the top of my class…which I always did back then. But that means I only got new books once per semester.

So I started poking my nose on my dad’s book shelves.

When I was 9 years old, I have started reading Hikayat Inderaputera which was a book that my dad had had to study when he was in form 6, back during his schooling years. I loved the beautiful medieval malay words…

“Hatta kalakian diceterakan oleh orang yang empunya cetera ini demikan bunyinya. Alkisah peri mengatakan tatkala Inderaputera disuruh Raja Syahian pergi kepada Berma Sakti dan peri mengatakan tatkala Inderaputera beroleh pedang daripada Laksamana dan peri mengatakan tatkala Inderaputera bertemu dengan tengkorak berkata-kata.”

I was 9 and I had no idea at that time that I was going to enter IB and choose Malay Literature for my EE. I am proud to say that I had chosen Hikayat Inderaputera for my EE and Alhamdulillah got an A for it.

I had also read Sejarah Melayu by Tun Sri Lanang when I was nine. I loved it.

I loved Malay books back then. Besides, I was not born being good in English, so English books were not my main choice back then. But I could remember beautiful words from the ancient Malay literature on my dad’s book shelves. I have read Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan years before I had had to study it in IB. Saga too, was one of my reading choices back then. I read poetries by Indonesian writers when I could scarcely understand what it all means. I just knew that the words were beautifully arranged.

In school, I would sacrifice my ‘rehat’ time and go to the libarary. My choice of books in school were not very literary (unlike at home)…there were only Siri Salma, Siri Tiga Penyiasat, Hardy Boys… I read all of those that I could get my hands on.

I could not decide which one I love more….literature or non-literary fiction?

Because of my reading habit, I had many-many stories on top of my head. I used to entertain my friends with stories of ‘Dracula’ as we were waiting for ‘pak cik bas’ to pick us up. My childhood friends were so impressed with my story-telling because they thought I created the story on my own. I did not tell them that the original author was Bram Stoker. Hahahha.

I have read many translated literature as well…Hikayat Amir Hamzah, Perjalanan Ke Pusat Bumi (originally from Jules Verne; Journey to The centre of the earth), Seribu Satu Malam (The Arabian Nights)….all those when I was only nine. All literarry pieces translated into Malay.

I enjoyed Malay books sooo much back then. Only very occasionally do I read Enid Blyton’s English fiction and short strories.

But when I was ten, my elder sister started being a fan of Francine Pascals…so there were many Sweet Valley series at our home. This marked the start of my reading English fiction. From age 10 to 15, I read lots of common books that teenagers read. Sweet Valley, thrillers by Christopher Pike and R.L Stine. All my pocket money went to English Fiction…I have happily forgotten Malay novels.

I have also forgotten about my fascination with literature and beautiful medieval words..preferring to read about mysteries and ghosts and crime fiction faced by high school protagonists.

Thankfully, when I went to Langkawi, my good friend cum roommate, Annisa revived my love for literature. She loves poetries…she could write her own beautiful poetries. She grew up with English Literature…Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Charlote Bronte etc. She made me try my hand at writing my own English poetries (before this I only wrote English short stories). In fact my poetry-writing era was in Langkawi because I had someone who would read my works and who also happened to love writing herself.

So, that was when I started reading English literature in earnest. No more translated version….I read the English version of The Arabian Nights, I read the English Version of Journey To The Centre of The Earth (originally a French Literature). And I also discovered Charlotte Bronte’s amazing works such as The Professor, Jayne Eyre and Villete. I discovered Jane Austen in Langkawi too and have read all of them except for The Mansfield Park. I used to spend one whole day reading Far Away From The Madding Crowd (by Thomas Hardy) instead of doing Add Maths homework which was the one subject that I was always quite behind.

And now, I am balancing my love for both literary and non-literary fiction.

But none of those include Malay books…

I would like to try renewing my love for Malay literature….I have tried reading Faisal Tehrani but while I like some of his books, I could not say that I truly enjoyed them all that much. Not as much as I enjoyed ‘To Kill A Mocking Bird’ at least.

It’s really hard to find good books…but with English books, at least both literature and non-literature books are enjoyable and quite intelligent. The research of English adventure and crime fiction (auhored by the liked of David Baldacci, Dan Brown, Jeffrey Archer, Matthew Reilly) are superbly-done.

But with Malay books….only literatures can claim superb research…tu pun kebanyakannya sastera yang boring! Susah nak cari sastera yang research nya bagus but at the same time enjoyable.

Non-literature Malay books….tak payah ceritalah. Yang banyak cuma kisah cinta! There’s nothing wrong with love stories….but at least biarlah ada ilmu sikit. Do your research lah, please…

Kalau Male Protagonist tu bekerja sebagai businessman….at least kasi ilmu mcm mana nak set up your own business. Lesen2 yg diperlukan to set it up…those things can be found dalam bahagian perdagangan buku Kemahiran Hidup PMR!  Kalau the Female Protagonist is a doctor…research lah betul2 pasal benda2 yang berkaitan sampai pembaca boleh hayati and faham what is it involved…

For example when I was reading Jeffrey Archer’s ‘First Among Equals’…I could understand the whole British Political System. It was really that good. When I read ‘A prisoner of Birth’…I got a glimpse about the law and some of the vocab used in the law society.

Kalau Malay love stories…I learn nothing! Semuanya khayalan kisah cinta semata2. Walaupun lelaki itu bekerja sebagai lawyer, tapi aku tak tahu apa2 pasal kerja dia. Tempat kerja lelaki tu hanyalah setting untuk dia berjumpa dengan heroin…Tak ada bezanya kalau dia buat watak lelaki tu doctor, or petani or whatever….sebab memang tak ada info yg diselit supaya pembaca betul2 dapat rasa yang lelaki ni sememangnya lawyer. Nampak sgt lah jahilnya penulis itu…yang hanya tulis pasal pertemuan antara lelaki dan perempuan, and how they slowly like each other, and then ada konflik sikit2 and then that’s it! Nak cakap ada ayat2 sastera yang sedap pun tak juga! Nothing special.

Now if you read Dan Brown’s Da Vinci Code….there are so many moments when you can say…”Oh, now I get it!” or “Oh, itu ke Fibonacci numbers” or, “Oh, this is what anagram is all about!”. You always learn something new that makes it exciting!

Kalau sastera melayu pula…hmm, tak berani nak cakap lebih2 because I am not that much of a fan. So far I have only read Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan, Salina, Saga, some Indonesian Poetries and only those I had to read in IB. I should probably find more of those before I can make a decisive opinion. I guess, I don’t really like modern Malay literature. I just love the medieval Malay literature, like sastera hikayat and some of the Arabic literature yang diterjemah.

I wanted to stop being disappointed with our Malay books…but whenever I went to Populour (the only decent book store in Alor Star, damn it!) and saw all those trashy novels being displayed, my heart sank in frustration. So again and again, I picked up english literature or English books, feeling like I have betrayed my own race.

Come on, Malay Writers! Wake up! Read up! And Improve!