Monday, April 27, 2009

Anwar Ridhwan : Accolades by Harry Aveling

[ On four of Anwar Ridhwan’s short stories, published in an anthology Fables of Eve] Anwar Ridhwan works with a sophistication … Anwar’s world is more than of the urban intellectual : more precise, more restrained, at once Malay and international. In his anthology, An Introduction to Malay Literature, Muhammad Haji Salleh praises Anwar Ridhwan for his “clean and quiet style of writing”, and the “patience and care” which characterize his use of description and dialogue.
Tik! Tik! Tik!” is an absurd tale of a woman pregnant with a bomb. The woman describes herself theatrically as ‘a woman from Hiroshima’, her lover describes himself as ‘a man from Nevada’. The story is set simply in a great ‘metropolis’. It might be anywhere, it is not necessarily Malaysia. Here, the story clearly is its own purpose.
Minority”, too, is set abroad : specifically in New York, but with references to an Islamic secessionist struggle being waged somewhere in ‘the south’ – perhaps either in Thailand or the Philippines, but not presumably in Malaysia … The story admits of no easy resolution – the men separate, unreconciled – but this, Anwar seems suggest between human beings are hazy and marked by confusion and uncertainty. In “Minority”, the major female character is Nuriah, Siddik’s wife, who dies of an incurable cancer and is buried, at her own request under a tree in the village of her birth (which might be anywhere in Malaysia, Indonesia, or the South). She, like the woman in “Tik! Tik! Tik!” is a victim of her own dangerous biology.
Agnes Ho in “Love of The Dragon” is a far more dangerous creature, prepared to manipulate others (men) to gain her own advantage, and even to murder them when her wishes are frustrated. Her pending profession of Islam is a sham, her only concern is with her own self preservation. The hero of the story, known only by the pronoun “you” is able to outguess and outmaneuvers her at every crucial point (Credit: Harry Aveling, “Introduction”, Fables of Eve, Kuala Lumpur : Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka, 1991).