This second edition of Bunga Emas – revised and augmented – has the bonus inclusion of Tracks of a Tramp, a collection of poems (1951-1961) by T Wignesan.
Bunga Emas and Tracks of a Tramp first appeared over half a century ago, in the period after Merdeka, the Malaysian independence in 1957, when the nation, still a fledgling, had so much hope and promise. Malaysia Day, 1963, was just around the corner.
Bunga Emas means tribute, as the editor explains in the glossary, an offering by Chinese and Indian writers and poets who had made Malaysia their home, to their ‘evanescent mother cultures’.
This anthology of Malayan/Malaysian literature in English, Chinese and Tamil from 1930 to 1963 (all translated into English) is something that’s never been done before, nor since. Apart from being an excellent historical record of pre- and post-independence Malaysian writing, this collection proves that good stories never grow old or tired.
Although this volume is only a small sample from the period, and it will be dangerous to draw too many conclusions from it, one can’t help but admire the sheer quality the ideas, and the craftsmanship. They might have been written half a century ago, but they sound so current. More importantly, in here are voices of the Other that we seldom hear (and often ignore). A must read.