As Eat Pray Love has just opened in the cinemas it got me thinking about all the stories which have made it from printed page to celluloid and how much more I prefer the personal journey found within the smooth cover of a book to the Hollywood interpretations (however much I adore Javier I will not spoil my relationship with a such an irresistible story of philosophical enlightenment, even if it was a little weak in the middle and often too self-conscious).
Reading is a passion of mine. And I’m not a literature snob; I’ll read more or less anything that will expand my knowledge, give me an insight into another culture or someone else’s world – Voltaire; Manga comics; National Geographic; Harlequin/Mills and Boon novels in French; a world Atlas; The Economist; Borges; The Shortlist; Wikipedia; Net computer magazine; religious texts; and while at university my friends and I would even while-away hours just reading the Oxford Spanish Dictionary.
Then what gets me even more revved up is sharing the news of my new find, or my wisdom on a timeless classic, with a friend. It’s a great way discover an author or a genre you might have previously overlooked and it takes you off in a new direction.
So, I’d like to offer up some of my enthusiasm for books and to start off I’ve chosen a couple of books I read in preparation for my trip around South East Asia. Don’t be shy – post your thoughts or recommendations in the comments section.
Nyanyi Sunyi Seorang Bisu (A Mute’s Soliloquy) (1995) is a very moving and ultra real autobiography based on the letters that Pram created for his daughter while being detained as a political prisoner on Buru island, Indonesia. His outspoken views were often censored by the pre-reformation government and in 1965 the Suharto New Order regime banished him, along with thousands of other Indonesians, for over 11 years. During this time, while being subjected to psychological and physical torture, he recited his views on friendship, love, colonialism and racism, lessons he would have liked to have shared with his children, stories recounted just to keep his fellow inmates going, and although writing materials were banned his narratives were eventually written down and smuggled out. At the time of his exile he was already a well-respected writer in the West and he became something of a cause cÃ©lÃ¨bre for human rights activists around the world. This is a beautiful book full of indispensible lessons for life.
The Long Day Wanes: a Malayan Trilogy (1956-59) is a fictitious recounting of the last days of the British Empire in Malaysia (the title evoking Tennyson’s Ulysses). Created in three volumes, Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in The Blanket, Beds in the East, it moves quite slowly at the beginning but if you stick with it there are rewards to be had. In an example of traditional expatriate colonial literature, to set on the bookshelf alongside Orwell’s Burmese Days and Forster’s Passage to India, Burgess aimed to produce an authentic picture of life and the people of South East Asia as the sunsets on Britain’s days in the region. Indeed he aimed to become an expert on Malaya cultures and peoples, learning to speak and write Malay and this is a thoughtful and often ruthessley comical depection of the locals, residents from other parts of the Empire, and the expat-Europeans alike.
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