24 November 2012

BOOK: Salina

Let's settle the fact that I'll be writing my experiences of reading a highly-acclaimed Malay book in English. Salina, a masterpiece of our own National Laureate or Sasterawan Negara A. Samad Said had of course, received its own place in the literary world.

Salina tells a story of the Malays right after the Japanese invasion in the British-ruled Singapore. Desperations among Malays of the time force them to take up jobs deemed as filthy, so the story tells. A. Samad Said is truly a literary genius in telling stories with a setting of a small, dirty but never rest from controversies Kampung Kambing. The village, named after the goat cage or kandang kambing in which the houses were built from. The owner, Karupaya and Indian modified the goat cages to very bad conditioned houses to be rented to the Malays and Indians of the time. 

The villagers, of whom one is Salina never cease to have their share of stories- all of which are the effects of World War II. The most interesting issue raised is all of the 'effects' are mostly leading to women lowering their dignities to become prostitutes or waitress in which considered as a 'filthy' or hina.

It tells a story of hardships faced by the poor and helpless Malays of the time. The points that the author may want to project is the Malays nature who are lazy to change their destinies or perhaps, they are so and so just because the conditions or environments forced them to become so. Fast forward, we are still seeing Malays who are in no will whatsoever to change their fate. Or perhaps, a different view would suggest that they are the products of the environment they lived in.

Many have read the book probably but not the younger generation because I am very sure the shelves for Malay literature in bookstores are mostly filled with love-themed novels. One of the reasons people seem to keep reading English books once they're hooked to it is because they always feel that Malay books lack in substance- a reason which is hard to deny when you want to compare the deep meaning behind dreams of children with a young lad who's searching for a better life in a big city; a theme I found very obsolete in Malay novels.

Salina should be treated a must-read for these X and Y generations which the theme of Japanese post-war effects in Tanah Melayu and Singapore are only a thing of the past- or worse embedded as 'parts of this and that' in History subject. Who could blame them when there  never exist the romanticisation of the history in good literatures widely available and accessible? 

Salina should be read by every young generation and let's protect the masterpiece of our own living Sasterawan Negara by appreciating the words he used to tell a thing of the past. Thank you, A. Samad Said.-The Chukai Insider

Note: The special edition of Salina can be bought online from this website-


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