Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Roslan Jomel

I did an interview with author Roslan Jomel.  I have enjoyed reading his book Selamat Datang Ke Malaywood that highlight a collection of his short stories. My persona favorite story from the collection is Lelaki Yang Menetak Anaknya...  

Headline A Good Storyteller 

BY Bissme S

In November last year,Roslan Jomelwas awarded the prestigious Hadiah Sastera Perdana Malaysia 2012 in the short story category for his collection of 18 short stories entitled Selamat Datang Ke Malaywood. The prize, which was introduced by the second prime minister, the late Tun Abdul Razak Hussein, in 1971 as a form of recognition to good literary works and writers, could be liken to the British Man Booker Prize for fiction. The prize finally put the spotlight on Roslan, who hails from Kuching, Sarawak. The 41-year-old author came out with his first collection of short stories, entitled Namaku Epal Kuning, in 2010. Selamat Datang Ke Malaywood is his second collection published in 2012 and his third book, also another collection of shorts entitled Serangga Di Dalam Kepala, has just hit the bookstores. Here, he answers questions posed to him on his life and writngs with a wry sense of humour. 

*What inspired you to be a writer?

In my schooldays, I was not a smart student. In fact, I was a slow learner.When I was in Form Three, I was introduced to literature – short stories, poems and novels. I immediately fell in love with the beautiful words and I thought being a writer would be great fun. Since coming out with three collections of short stories, I learnt that writing is difficult and complex … and writing has little to do with talent and fun.

*Describe your childhood years and what shaped you to be the writer that you are today.

As a kid, I like to think about weird things. For example, what will happen if the world ends? Who will replace the human race as the next occupant of the Earth? How the Earth, which is inhabited by billions of people who move from day to night, can remain in perfect condition? And who control this rotation?
There is nothing more magical than the power that is governing the universe.So when I write, automatically, I tackle these themes in my works. I know some readers are not comfortable with
the subjects I have written and I am not utterly disappointed when they choose not to read my work.

* Some have said your short stories do not have ‘nilai-nilai murni’ (noble values). Any comment? 

A few even said my books are written by someone who does not believe in God and I was utterly shocked when I first heard this comment.But I am not a moralist. I am not writing a travelling brochure.I consider myself as a storyteller and all I want to do is to tell a story. Readers buy your book with their money and now, every sen is precious. Today, readers are not keen to read books where the authors preach to them.

* What changes would you like to see taking place in the Malay literature scene?

Everyone, including myself, want to see Malay literature works with a ‘cosmopolitan’ touch and not be stuck with old ideas. I also like to see great contemporary works from various countries be translated into the national language.
FIXI (a publishing company under Amir Muhammad) has begun to do that. By doing that [being exposed to world literature], Malay literature will [hopefully] move forward and we will no longer have to read phrases such as daun kelapa melambai-lambai di tepi pantai’ (Palm leaves swaying on the shores) in Malay works.”

* Some people say your writing style is similar to Haruki Murakami. Any comment?

I love his work. But to write like him is very difficult. I cannot emulate his style. He uses simple communicative words to express himself. But it is not easy to write if the writer is not confident about the story he is telling or the theme he is tackling.

* What is your opinion of the national language?

I am very proud of my national language. It is the language that will define my identity and my culture if I ever choose to stay in New York or London. My wish is that every Malaysian should be fluent in communicating in the national language. You have no right to speak about your country’s affairs if you are not fluent in your national language.

* What is your strength and weakness as a writer?

My weakness is that my heart goes a-flutter each time I enter a bookshop. And as for my strength, compared to most people, I think I have no problem locking myself alone in a room to

* What change would you like to see taking place in this country?

I do not dare dream of an Utopian world. All I want to see is for everyone to live in freedom and in peace ... that they can enjoy ice cream on the beach during weekends without having to listen to any extreme political speeches!

Roslan Jomel .... the author of Selamat Datang Ke Malaywood  and ( below) his three books

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