Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Book launch - Arok of Java

PramoedyaWhy did Pramoedya like to say that his book Arok of Java was his best? I typed in the title into Google and found that there is already a small buzz starting in the literary world. Arok of Java will be launched at SilverfishBooks, 58-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru at 5.00pm on Saturday 24th November 2007. Admission is free. Everyone is welcome.

Arok became a king of Java bearing the name of "Arok", he who changes everything. Is somebody who changes everything a revolutionary? Was indeed this 13th century bandit turned king really a revolutionary? Is this the picture that Pramoedya Ananta Toer presents in this (mostly) realist novel? In Pramoedya's version of this early pre-Indonesian history, Arok is not just a bandit who becomes a king, but a Brahman-Kstaria-Sudra fusion. But this fusion does not amount to any super-human, for Arok is also a creature of his time and environment with all its limitations. The contradiction between the impulse to liberation and the constraints of a time bound consciousness is one of the things at the heart of this novel, which Pramoedya considered one of his most important works. How and why was this and why does it make for such a gripping read?

At the coming book launch Max Lane will look at the place of Pramoedya in Indonesian cultural life and his legacy as well as ask whether indeed Arok, a king of Java with a name meaning, "he who changes everything" was a revolutionary? Is this the picture that Pramoedya Ananta Toer presents? Max Lane will talk for 30 to 45 mins and then take some questions.

Max Lane is the translator of WS Rendra and also Pramoedya Ananta Toer's Buru tetralogy. He has written hundreds of articles on Indonesia, East Timor and the Philippines. His latest book, UNFINISHED NATION: Indonesia before and after Suharto, will be published by VERSO Books in May, 2008. He has travelled back and forth and sometimes lived in Indonesia since 1969. He was the founder of INSIDE INDONESIA magazine, the only English language popular magazine covering Indonesian affairs. He has been a teacher, diplomat, aid worker, journalist and writer as well as translator.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Launch of News from Home and the Malaysian literature in English series

News from HomeNews from Home has been a long time coming. Ten stories each selected from three writers. Ten stories we felt would be a nice number to introduce each of them to readers, each with their own distinct Malaysian voice, and each with a slightly different story to tell and way of telling it. These are all writers to look forward to, writers still in their thirties, writers who realise they still have a long way to go, writers who are genuinely Malaysian and modern. At the time of writing this, they are all working on their own 'solo' efforts which they hope to complete next year. We are excited like hell, we hope you will be too once you have read them.

LogoMalaysian literature in English series

News from home will be the first book to carry this sticker (though) we may decide to put it on some of our previous books that we think qualify - Lloyd Fernando, Salleh ben Joned, Huzir Sulaiman and some others surely will). So what is Malaysian literature in English.? The English part is clear enough. So what is Malaysian? Should the author(s) be Malaysian? No, we think not. It could be anyone who lives in or who has lived in Malaysia and has a unique perspective of what we are all about (besides the tourism brochure saccharine sweet bullshit and the whingy-whiny, angsty, everything-sucks crap). And that pretty much will define the word literature as well. Good stories well told, in a nutshell. Good poetry, good plays, good fiction and good travel writing is what we will be looking for.But if you are Malaysian and you write about Beverley Hills or Manhattan with no experience of either, I guess you will not be part of the series, lor. We will not publish you anyway. But then, maybe, others will.

Opening party

Yes, we will be having an 'opening' party at our new premises at 58-1 Jalan Telawi, Bangsar Baru (above pet shop next to DHL) and also the book launch for New from Home and the Malaysian Literature in English series at 5.00pm on Saturday, 17th November 2007. Come and meet the three new writers and have a party. Guess what? It will be Diwali too. All welcome.