Sunday, 29 January 2017

What Are The Great Literary Treasures That Bind Us Together?

By M. Zulkifli

A couple of months ago, we went to watch the movie "Genius"; the kind of film that will never get made here, cos it's a story about BOOK EDITING. OK, it's more than that, actually. It's about a book editor Maxwell Perkins (played by Colin Firth) and his relationship with an eccentric author Thomas Wolfe (Jude Law). It's based on a true story and the scenes where the process of editing (red pen and all) were depicted, were pretty exciting, especially when editor and writer indulged in prolonged, and ultimately enlightening verbal sparring.

What I found interesting too was the inclusion of Hemingway and Fitzgerald in the movie. They weren't exactly fans of Wolfe and that added to the conflict, although it did little to affect the main story.

What the film did to me though was to trigger this thought that I have long meant to openly discuss. While we know of the rich literary and cultural traditions of the west, which continue to be celebrated, interpreted and referenced even in modern popular culture ("Notting Hill" made us want to read Jane Austen, for example), what then is the situation here in Malaysia?

Pic by Black Triangle Silat

What are the great literary references that bind us together as a nation? We all know of the hikayats and writers we learned in school, but what are the works that all of us hold dear to our hearts and minds, that should rightfully form a semblance of unity in the intellectual sense? What do we celebrate and talk about? Do we find new meaning in these national treasures?

There are smatterings of effort here and there, but I'm afraid cultural fragmentation will make it hard to instil and nurture that real sense of appreciation and belonging in this seemingly "complicated" space.

This, of course, is not helped by the general disdain towards such pursuits. Entertainment is purely that. And the continued consumption of such, will make the situation even harder to stomach in decades to come.

And oh yeah, I give the movie, 4 stars. : )

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