Today is Merkdeka, or Malaysia's Independence Day. It the nation’s 54th National Day. Malaya was born on Aug 31, 1957. However this year, as the day coincides with the major festival of Eid, or Hari Raya, the Merdeka celebrations will be held on Malaysia Day on Sept 16.
Normally for a week or more before Merdeka, I get noisy helicopters directly over my condo, practising their fly past. But these seem to be less in recent years, maybe due to economic cut backs and this year there have been none (although it was Ramadan).
Purely by coincidence I have just finished re-reading The Malayan Trilogy by Anthony Burgess. And it is a very apt book for this time of year. Unfortunately the book is (or was) banned/restricted (no one seems to know for sure) in Malaysia and I bought my copy from Ebay UK.
The book seems to be on a Ministry of Home Affairs blacklist. The reasons - because it "is offensive to Malaysian society" which translates as it offends the Malays!!! It was written by a mat salleh in colonial times during Independence and describes life in Malaya in a very realistic way.
Burgess paints an amusing but fitting picture of ALL the races - Chinese, Indian (Tamil), Malay, Orang Asli and 'white men' so none of the races are spared.
The book includes all aspects of life, such as work, drinking, money, relationships, etc etc. And it seems that in many respects little has changed in the 50+ years! Even his choice of fictious place names is amusing e.g. Kuala Hantu, Kenching, Mawas, Tikus etc.
See more on Sharon's blog, one comment wrote "The triology diagnoses the potential pitfalls and problems regarding modernisation and ethnic relations then, hence is suppressed for the insights they offer. Sadly, the banning of the book and the current socio-political landscape seem to reflect and further confirm the issues and narrowmindedness our country suffer from."
Another amusing snippet Set in postwar Malaya at the time when people and governments alike are bemused and dazzled by the turmoil of independence, this three-part novel is rich in hilarious comedy and razor-sharp in observation. The protagonist of the work is Victor Crabbe, a teacher in a multiracial school in a squalid village, who moves upward in position as he and his wife maintain a steady decadent progress backward."
Burgess raises some good points about the country on the verge of independence. See more on Wikipedia, which suggests that copies may be available in Malaysian bookshops.
In the US the book is called The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy.
It is an excellent read and I recommend it to everyone, Malaysian and mat salleh!