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The Slow Burn of Inner Chaos: Writing from Malaysia

September 2021

Image: Chang Yoong Chia, Don't Spread Rumors—Study I, 2012, postage stamps and polyvinyl acetate glue (collage).

Image: Chang Yoong Chia, Don’t Spread Rumors—Study I, 2012, postage stamps and polyvinyl acetate glue (collage).

Our September 2021 issue features six writers whose work across four languages represents the cultural and linguistic breadth of contemporary Malaysian society. “Life in Malaysia,” guest editors Pauline Fan and Adriana Nordin Manan write, “is enriching, infuriating, and full of inner contradictions.” In verse and in prose, the writers featured here head straight into this maelstrom. From Jack Malik and T. Alias Taib, poets who take us from the ethereal to the terrestrial, to writers like Fatimah Busu, M. Navin, Alis Padasian, and Ho Fok Song—who provide unfliching portrayals of racism, poverty, and patriarchy, as well as a sensational story of pop singer-cum-ax-wielding assassin Mona Fandey—this month’s contributors do not shy away from their society’s contradictions.

The Slow Burn of Inner Chaos: Six Works in Translation from Malaysia
By Pauline Fan & Adriana Nordin Manan
The sense of slipping slowly into chaos is an everyday reality here.
Dark as a Boy
By Ho Sok Fong
Pretty much everyone knew Saw Ai’s family had problems.
Translated from Chinese by Natascha Bruce
Mona Fandey’s Cassette, or Gray Feather
By M. Navin
Who would smile like that after such a thing?
Translated from Tamil by Sreedhevi Iyer
Monsoon Fable
By Jack Malik
frog cries saturate. life inundates. crane stares blacken. death curdles. ancestral winds whirl.
Translated from Malay by Thira Mohamad
Sinarut 1994
By Alis Padasian
Why couldn’t Mama just leave Father?
Translated from Malay and Dusun by Siti Malini Mat