The digital reincarnation of a national bestseller by KIT LEEE (now known as ANTARES)

Friday, October 26, 2007


Alamak! Things change so quickly in this country. Just like with teenagers: turn around for a moment and they sprout tiny hairs all over, their voices crack, and they start talking back. And take the deadline for this book, for instance. It was originally scheduled for release before Christmas 1987. 'No way!' I protested. 'Let's shoot for Christmas 1988.'

We missed - or, rather, I did.

So we're trying for Easter 1989. Failing which we'll get it on the shelves before next Christmas. You hold in your hands an infinitely postponable publishing event.

How come it took so long? I may not be a certified dynamo of human productivity - but I'm really not that lazy. Truth is, I suffered a temporary loss of my sense of humour. Don't ask me why. Read the newspapers. I was almost ready to quit.

Now you know why the book ends with "The Quiet Emigrant" instead of something more positive - like the image of a completely contented Malaysian squatting on the curb behind a heap of durian shells, happy as an idiot just thinking about the anticipated influx of tourists in Visit-Malaysia-Year 1990. I wouldn't want, however, to underestimate my fellow Malaysians' potential for nobler aspirations.

And what could be nobler than gritting your teeth and muttering: 'Right, we're in for the long haul!' Don't tell me you believe in ready-made Paradises? Well, I believe it's our task to try and establish a Fair Deal (so what if people say there's no Justice in the world?) Things tend to balance out. Somone who's already migrated reports that curry laksa is easily obtainable where he lives in Vancouver, no problem. Others who are on the verge of emigration now confess to harbouring second, third, and fourth thoughts. This place is exasperating - but it's so enjoyable!

I wouldn't mind a change of scene myself. I just don't like the idea of running away. A fortune teller (prognosticators bloom in times of gloom) informs me in good faith that I would make a lot of money 'overseas.' That's hardly news: everybody seems to make a lot more money over there, even those on the dole. No way you can 'earn a living' in Malaysia writing books or acting or singing or dancing or playing music, or so I've been told. Okay, help me prove them all wrong: DON'T FLIP THROUGH THIS BOOK AND PUT IT BACK ON THE RACK - TAKE IT TO THE CASHIER IMMEDIATELY AND DO YOUR BIT FOR THE NATION'S CULTURAL DEVELOPMENT. AND DO IT WITH A BIG SMILE.

But I was talking about the swift changes sweeping the country, especially K.L. The ugly ditch right in front of the Royal Selangor Club won't be there forever, though the padang's gone for good. Did I say 'for good'? Oh, why not - some good comes out of every situation. The nation has never had a better education than in the last few years, I'm sure.

A few specimens I'm not supposed to describe (if I want to be published) are still pretty much at large - indescribably so, I'm afraid. That's another Malaysian hang-up: we seem to be sensitive in all the wrong spots. To me being sensitive means when someone touches you there you wriggle your toes and sigh. Or else you fly into a rage, throw a monster tantrum, have it out then and there and be done with it. Putting critics in jail and roughing them up and making publishers squirm is not very nice.

Anyway, as I was saying, changes occur in the blink of an eye. I've just been told there are no longer any Illegal Immigrants in our midst - some sort of amnesty was declared. Oh well, we'll keep the chapter in for posterity. Sorways nice to look back arfturds and have a bladigood laugh, izzenit? Adoi! so pain one ah! And with that I bid you Adieu.

January 1989,

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