Thursday, May 31, 2007

Salleh ben Joned - readings from Adam's Dream

We all know why he couldn't make it to the book launch during the Kuala LumpurInternational Literary Festival 2007, and we were disappointed though we understood.

Salleh is much better now and will be doing a reading from his latest books Adam's Dream at Silverfish Books, 67-1, Jalan Telawi Tiga, Bangsar Baru, Kuala Lumpur on Wednesday 4th of July, 2007 at 5.30pm. So why have it on a Wednesday? Because it is his birthday! Yes, Salleh was born on the 4th of July. (We have, since, changed the date and time of the event to the 7th of July but Salleh's birthday is still in the 4th though.)

Expect to have a good time. Bring your copies of Adam's Dream along for Salleh to sign, or you can get copies at Silverfish, of course.

Adam's Dream is an intensely personal collection of poems, some of which are extremely painful to read. But there are several fun ones too.


John Webster said...

I have known Salleh for many years as a mentor to my wife,a Malaysian who,is about to complete her PhD in English - motivated in significant part by her early years as a student of Salleh.

As a professor, I should only hope that I might ever have such a positive and motivational impact on any student's professional and creative development.

Salleh must be among the most gifted of teachers and writers and should take great pride in knowing the role that he has played in nurturing others who also embrace his bold and candid willingness to seek truth.

John Webster, PhD
Univeristy Professor, Chaminade University

Anonymous said...

My copy of Adam’s Dream arrived a few days ago and as I dip into it randomly at my home here in Honolulu I am doubly sorry I cannot be at Silverfish Bookstore for Salleh’s reading on July 7. It is July 5, the day after the U.S. Independence Day holiday—and Salleh’s birthday, which in his words “is just an unfortunate/coincidence without/any significance”(60). And yet he notes it? Salleh, my teacher this past 30 years, from whom I learned –and continue to learn so much-- is wrong on this one small count. Because, in some ways, how right it is that Salleh is born on the Fourth of July—with all that immediately suggests of freedom, of celebration, of passionate attachment to a land and all it is supposed to stand for.

Today, some of the Americans who are most critical of the tragically wrong turns their country has taken away from what its constitution and traditions are supposed to represent are the ones called “unpatriotic” and “disloyal.” So too, Salleh—against all evidence to the contrary. Salleh suffers the repeated charge of being an apostate and of being “kurang ajar” because his writings contain some of the angriest analysis of what has gone wrong with the country that this reluctant Bumiptera and millions more, indigenous and immigrant, call home. He lashes out at what he sees to be the “constitutionally condemned” way in which Malays like him, not just the children of immigrants, are made to feel like outsiders. He rails against the absence of “the elementary right/To believe in whatever gods I like” (85). In many ways his anger and his criticism make him more truly patriotic and more honestly spiritual in the best sense of what those labels are supposed to mean. His pious critics simply fail to hear the alarms his poems raise about the cancer that is invading the body politic in Malaysia.

This week I heard from another teacher of mine here in Hawaii who is fighting a personal battle with breast cancer. On Friday she will undergo what she hopes will be her final chemo treatment. In a note asking for prayers and good wishes, she expresses the hope that “this final treatment will annihilate any remaining buggers floating around in my body and then quickly skedaddle, allowing new healthy cells to regenerate and flourish.”

This could well be our wish for what Salleh’s poems might effect in Malaysia.

I hope Salleh’s reading, taking place almost simultaneously in Kuala Lumpur will help cure what ails us in Malaysia, banishing fears and suspicion and encouraging “new healthy cells to regenerate and flourish.” Adam’s Dream continues the work begun in Salleh’s earlier writings of teaching us “to greet, love, laugh and dance with each other in the middle of our zones of taboo” (Salleh quoting Epeli Hau’fa in As I Please, 148). Our laws direct us otherwise, but the truth is that only by talking to each other, not by silencing discussion, can we work our way to the “freedom” that Salleh tells us is one of the more precious meanings of Malaya.

Dawn Morais
Honolulu, Hawaii.