Malaysia: Lack of appreciation towards Malaysian literature a worrying phenomenon

Ooi Kok Hin in The Malaysian Insider

Among the Malays, one would have thought that they are the ones who will most appreciate their literary tradition. But beneath the facade of ethnic pride and supremacist rhetoric, the Malays have mostly forgotten the history of their literature, too.

Ismail Hussein, writing in 1966, has this to say: The present interest of the Malay people towards their own traditional literature has been very mixed. On the one side there is the group of ardent nationalists who are eagerly grabbing anything that come in their way and trying to reconstruct it into a glorious cultural past at the expense of precision and historical accuracy. A member of this group will tell us of the rich literary heritage of the Malay people, but the probability is that he himself has not read four texts of this heritage and can hardly name twenty titles of that rich literature. On the other side, there is the group of young forward-looking people who are only interested in the present and the future, who are anxiously trying to forget the past, because the past has brought them nothing but embarrassment.” (Excerpt from  Ismail Hussein’s “The Study of Traditional Malay Literature”).

Then there’s the question of “What exactly could be considered Malaysian literature?”

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