Sunday, September 02, 2007

Remembering National Literati Usman Awang

Last night, I was invited as a guest of honour to the launch of Turunnya Sebuah Bendera, a Malay-language collection of short stories written by National Literati Usman Awang (1929 - 2001). At the KL Central Market where the launch was held, I met some old personal friends of the late Usman Awang (left) like Lee Ban Chen, Tan Kai Hee, Dr. M.K. Rajakumar and another National Literati, A. Samad Said.

According to Mr. Tan (pix above, second from left), who is now a successful businessman and also the Honorary Secretary of the Malaysia-China Friendship Association, he and his generation of progressive Chinese were inspired by the humanist personality and inclusivist outlook of Usman Awang to learn the Malay language as early as 1950s and 1960s without being forced by anyone. He recalled that Usman Awang also encouraged the translation of progressive works of modern Chinese literature into the Malay language.

Dr. Rajakumar, also speaking in Malay, said that his friendship with Usman Awang was so close that he treated the latter's daughter Lyna "almost" as his own, especially since both of her parents passed away. Lyna Usman Awang (left) was also present to share her thoughts about her father whose most well-known nom de plume was Tongkat Warrant.

Lee Ban Chen (pix above, left), an ex-editor of the Sin Chew Jit Poh and a veteran Chinese educationist with Dong Jiao Zong (DJZ), now writes Malay-language columns in the online malaysiakini. In the late 1960s and early 1970s, while he was detained without trial under the Internal Security Act (ISA) for leading strikes of plantation workers, he had already written a book on modern philosophy in Malay.

Colouful lanterns herald Mid-Autumn Festival

Social liberation from ignorance, superstition


Blogger Monsterball said...

I first read Tonkat Warrant's poems and essays a long time ago, but I found them heavy going as my Malay wasn't that good.

Latter on I learnt to appreciate them more , as I found his writings are one of those things you become more meaningful as you get older.

1:32 AM  
Blogger James Wong Wing-On said...

well, i'm going overseas for a week. there will be no blogging until at least 910/8/2007. cheers.

3:55 AM  
Blogger James Wong Wing-On said...

at least until 9/9/2007. sorry for typo.

3:56 AM  
Blogger Monsterball said...

Have a safe journey

7:27 AM  
Blogger michael tai said...

I use to be a neighbour in PJaya, Sect 14. Lost touch since i left for S'pore. I wonder if his wonderful wife still cooks? and the two sons, Iskandar and younger brother forget his name,of course, big long haired sis, Lyna .

9:18 AM  

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