If you’ve enjoyed my feeble attempts to translate Malay poems and songs over the years, perhaps you’d like the Poetry Translation Centre. Contemporary poets of…
Subscribe with a Reader
Follow me on TwitterMy Tweets
- A Short History of Malaysia # - Straightforward introduction to Malaysian history; key individuals, important dates, broadest themes. It feels comparable in depth to what I remember of high school US History class. A good preparation for further reading, I hope.
- The Jungle is Neutral: Review # -
The Jungle is Neutral, by F. Spencer Chapman
The memoir of a British lieutenant in WWII Malaya who conducts guerilla warfare against the Japanese. It’s not a very gripping story. All the successful guerrilla work takes place in the first quarter of the book, and from there on it is one long anticlimax of malaria, dysentery and thrashing through the jungle. Managing not to die in the jungle for a few years is a pretty good feat for a foreigner but he’s surrounded by locals who do it with less effort, and he doesn’t have much interesting to say about it beyond the bare facts. His major accomplishment between all the not succumbing to illness is training up the Malayan Communist Party cadres in tactics. The book ends with the war so I’m left wondering to what degree the post-war MCP insurgency against the British was more effective because of the good lieutenant’s training.
I’ve been trying to read more books about Malaysia. It hasn’t been easy. There are surprisingly few of them, at least what shows up on Amazon. Of those that I’ve found, very few have anything to say about Malays. Anthony Burgess’s Malayan Trilogy novels didn’t have one sympathetic Malay character. Likewise TJIN: there isn’t a single named Malay in the whole book. What ‘s a good book about Malaysia I should read next? Any genre welcome.
- The Road to Mecca: Review # -
Asad lived an amazing life which he describes beautifully. Meetings with future kings of Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Iran before their ascension, espionage into Fascist-controlled Libya and British Iraq: Asad covered a lot of ground. He nests his recollections like the 1001 Nights, one scene inside the other, going further back in time with each one. Yet the book seemed so dated. Asad (1900-1992) was a man of the 20th century, and his Modern rationalist outlook, his Islamist politics and his extreme attachment to the House of Saud feel like relics of a previous age here in the Post-modern, Post-binLaden 21st. The Road to Mecca was a fascinating historical document but not particularly inspirational to this reader.