Book Launch!

The George Town Literary Festival is underway. The Last Jews of Penang is honored to receive a slot in the program for our official launching. Here is publisher Amir Muhammad, illustrator Arif Rafhan and myself talking about the origins of the project and what it means to us.

4 things in life

Bapa saya pernah pesan ada 4 perkara setiap lelaki kena capai dalam hidupnya:

1. Tanam sebatang pokok.

2. Bikin sebuah rumah.

3. Mempunyai seorang anak laki.

4. Tulis sebuah buku.

I did it, Dad!

The Last Jews of Penang book in the hand of the author
With prose by Zayn Gregory accessible even to goys of all ages, and beautiful illustrations by Arif Rafhan, The Last Jews of Penang brings to life a poignant moment in Malaysia’s rich multicultural history.

… you can bury me now lol

Buy the book!

The Last Jews of Penang

Not very long ago, a small but thriving community of Jews called the island of Penang their home.
With a presence spanning across two centuries, this little-known but truly Malaysian community
eventually vanished, but traces remain!

With prose by Zayn Gregory accessible even to goys of all ages, and beautiful illustrations by Arif
Rafhan, The Last Jews of Penang brings to life a poignant moment in Malaysia’s rich multicultural
history.

Available internationally through GerakBudaya!

The Last Jews of Penang book cover
A beautifully illustrated history of the little-known community of Jews who lived in Penang for nearly two hundred years.

Salleh Ben Joned’s Salacious Pantuns

Literary giant Salleh Ben Joned Salleh Ben Joned passed away a few months ago. His taste in pantuns favored the more … spicy. His short essay “Salacious Pleasures of ‘Pantuns'” on four classic pantuns from the book Kumpulan Pantun Melayu (published by Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka Malaysia) features his loose translations into English and some thoughts about their significance to the Malay Psyche. I was surprised to find I had already translated three of them on separate occasions. Here are all four of Salleh Ben Joned’s Salacious Pantuns, followed by my translation and then his translation.

Salacious Pantun #1: TELUK DAN SIAM

Ke Teluk sudah, ke Siam sudah
Ke Mekah saja aku yang belum
Berpeluk sudah, bercium sudah
Bernikah saja aku yang belum.

My translation:
Teluk and Siam are done, off my list,
but I haven’t yet reached the Holiest City;
I’ve shared an embrace and also a kiss,
But I haven’t yet tried holy matrimony.

Salleh Ben Joned’s translation:
I’ve been to Thailand, to the Gulf too,
Only to Mecca I haven’t been;
Kissed them I have, and known them too,
Without going through the wedding scene.

Salacious Pantun #2: KUANG BERTELUR

Di mana kuang bertelur?
Di atas lata, di celah batu,
Di mana sayang nak tidur?
Di atas dada, di celah susu.

My translation:
“Where does the pheasant lay eggs?” it is said,
Above the falls, ‘tween boulders they rest;
Where shall my true love lay down his head,
Within these arms, between my two breasts.

Salleh Ben Joned’s translation:
Where does the dove lay its eggs
In the rapids between the rocks
Where may I lay my head, my love
On the chest between the breasts.

kuang pheasant

Salacious Pantun #3: KERENGGA DALAM BULUH

Kerengga di dalam buluh,
Serahi berisi air mawar,
Sampai hasrat di dalam tubuh,
Tuan seorang jadi penawar.

My Translation:
Vials filled with rosewater treat
fire ants within the bamboo;
When my body fills with need
The only remedy is you.

Salleh Ben Joned’s Translation:
Red ants crawling in bamboo shaft
Vessel brimming with rose water
When my body’s possessed by lust
Only you can be the appeaser.

bamboo

Salacious Pantun #4, a quite randy pantun indeed: BUKIT JERAM

Tanam padi di Bukit Jeram
Tanam keduduk atas batu
Macam mana hati tak geram
Menengok tetek menolak baju

My Translation:
Plant your rice in Jeram Hill dust,
Senduduk in the rocky dirt;
How could my heart not fill with lust,
To see her breasts push up her shirt.

Salleh Ben Joned’s Translation:
Plant the padi with a thrust
Stroke the seedlings with dew
It drives you crazy with lust
To see the tits tilting the baju (blouse)

Senduduk

His thoughts on the significance of these pantuns in understanding the Malay Psyche are linked here. Me, I just translate ’em.