Two New Malaysian Titles and Some…

I am presently reading The Immigrant by Manju Kapur, an Indian novelist who lives in Delhi and writes excellently on any lonely character’s introspections of an easily insensitive world. Kapur is a renowned novelist, is published in London and commands a strong following. Her longtime literary agents are David and Heather Godwin. Malaysian novelist Tash Aw is represented by the same agency. Kapur’s present plot – even if it may be argued as a rehash of older immigration stories –  is certainly important as it talks about the  largely forgotten pain of an emigrant to the West in the 70s. Not just the pain, but also the isolation and superficiality that comes as a clinical procedure to the idea of any emigrant’s hopeful assimilation in this case being Canada.

I will write a review of this and other books I’ve read or will continue to read. I’ve also been watching a fair bit of modern Iranian cinema…thanks to dvds I managed to secure from Tower Records. The store on Wicklow Street exhibits a comprehensive range of world films.

By the way, I will soon add on texts to the stories, still incomplete, above.


inspectorby Suzan Abrams

The books and one of a slightly precarious pile, arrived like a small stack of Christmas presents with my name on the label from both Waterstone’s and Books Upstairs, situated opposite Trinity College in College Green, Dublin. My excitement knows no bounds even as I order and await my turn, for more. This notwithstanding my impending trip to London as I prefer to travel light, an art which I have clumsily struggled to master, over the years.

There is some promising new Lebanese fiction. A Girl Made of Dust is a debut work of fiction by Lebanese writer, Nathalie Abi-Ezzi, who now lives in London. Certainly, the haunting description reveals the plot as one very much up my street. But…

I have finally received – and as I say this stand tall and proud of the authors in question – Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw and Shamini Flint’s Inspector Singh Investigates: A Most Peculiar Malaysian Murder. Aw is a Malaysian lawyer and full-time writer who resides in London but Flint – and here perhaps there is a desire to please both sides of the pond – is vague about her nationality in the introduction. Still, the brief description leans towards a Singaporean slant. The latter was born in Malaysia but lives in Singapore.

Now, both the fashionable hardback at £16.99 and the fat cherry-red paperback at 8 euro.20 cents find their way without hesitation, into my black patent handbag.

Both titles were carefully and exquisitely produced especially that each one is set to command a different mood and expectation. Aw’s is so elegant, it stays a true work of art. No doubt, the handsome book would be perfect for any serious or discerning book-collector interested in an absorbing intellectual discourse that blends extraordinary works of older Asian history not often discussed and this coupled with the novelist’s eloquence.

The easy shades of the jacket cover on my hardback owns up to a studied measure of an oceanic background coloured in light aquamarine and shared with a map. It would have appeared to have masqueraded too, a poignant seascape documentary.

More’s the pity that none of these titles crossed the shores to Ireland, to grab their fair chance of a stockist’s shelf-space.

In the last year alone, Dublin has switched from a touristy old England personality into a vibrant multicultural city with its eclectic population of Middle-Easterners, nationalities from African regions and one of this of which I know to be an already strong Nigerian community, Pakistanis, Mauritians, Sri Lankans and Indian professionals especially personnel connected to the medical field or Indian college and university students; many who now spot Irish girlfriends and too, the Chinese business community especially from Hong Kong and mainland China. All of whom I have met so far or otherwise caught snatches of dialogue from; in cafes and restaurants and on buses, trains and trams; speak the English Language fluently.

What stays ironical is that you can find any number of the latest multicultural fiction and non-fiction titles including the more popular fare of old in almost any bookstore, small or big in Dublin. And this even before the city pronounced sophistication for its new cosmopolitan style. I have no problems picking up Indian, Middle-Eastern, Iranian, Japanese or Chinese diaspora authors, writing in the English Language in the West. Only Malaysia seems conspiciously absent here in Ireland and no new Malaysian titles published in the West or even neighbouring London, has turned up since 2007.

The last title which was fortunate to have caught a good front-door display was Tan Twan Eng’s The Gift of Rain, thanks to it being nominated for the 2007 Man Booker Prize. That was a long time ago, although you can still easily pick up a Rani Manicka or otherwise, Aw’s first title, The Harmony Silk Factory.

I think that on the subject of Malaysian author awareness anyway, this spells a huge loss of a vast potential market that’s readily available and especially that Ireland thrives on its many liberal readers. In truth, there’s not a minute to be wasted. Aw would easily command a good crowd if he came this way. It’s potentially fatal I’d say that any new title especially a debut one like Flint’s and the few others that went before, could so clearly afford – and this of course meted out by circumstances – to miss out on an international readymade market, that’s just metaphorically speaking, next door to London.
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