A couple of novels set around colonial times in Malaya:
The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng. A story of tragedy and loss reminisced by a retired judge who returned to the lush greenery of Cameron Highlands long after the second world war. Although the plot seems to move at still pace, there is actually a rather intriguing story. For once I can read a novel and understand all the colloquial terms without looking them up. On the other hand, I did have to look up some of the references to Japanese culture (which coincided with my preparation at that time for a short trip to Japan).
The Singapore Grip, by JG Farrell. This author was recommended by a new friend and I was on a Malayan modern history binge (alright, the story was largely set in a time when Singapore was part of the Straits Settlement and not Malaya per se, but the fall of Singapore is pretty much the fall of Malaya). Again, there is an added sense of affinity to read a novel and get most of the references. Interesting bits on rubber price-fixing and supply manipulation for commerce junkies.
To Kill a Mocking Bird, by Harper Lee. Re-read this to much delight. So much humour and warmth. Scout was forced to wear a dress: “I felt the starched walls of a pink cotton penitentiary closing in on me, and for the second time in my life I thought of running away. Immediately“. In another chapter, Jem asked Atticus bleakly: “How could they do it, how could they?” to which Atticus replied, “I don’t know, but they did it. They’ve done it before and they did it tonight and they’ll do it again and when they do it — seems that only children weep.”
Wolf Totem, by Jiang Rong (in Chinese). Life in Inner Mongolia with the wolves. Book consists of chapters of the protagonist’s life as a young cadre sent to the great grasslands during the Cultural Revolution. The book is said to be a projection of the author’s own owe of the nomadic people. But that doesn’t mean the book is not informative in its depiction of the life of nomads even if as a biased contrast to the Han chinese settlers. In case you are interested, there’s an English translation of this book.
The Little Book of Plagiarism, by Richard A. Posner. It really is a little book. A short and concise explanation on the difference between plagiarism and copyright infringement, and why good art doesn’t necessarily have to be original (in the author’s opinion). Written by a U.S. judge.
The Last Lingua Franca, by Nicolas Ostler. This is the second book I have on the history of languages by the same author. Glad to have this book on my shelf to flip through before my trip to Uzbekistan (where so many people are multi-linguals but seldom one in common with me! If there is one super power I want to have, it is the ability to understand 10 languages. Or 10 lingua francas. I’m not greedy. Just 10 will do.)
Europe and the people without history, by Eric R. Wolf. Just into the first chapters: so far this book is fascinating.
The Rock of Tanios, by Amin Maalouf
Law and Literature, by Richard A. Posner
The Railway, by Hamid Ismailov
A collection of plays by a Malaysian playwright.
I’d like to know what interests you. So tell me, what have you been reading?