Sunday, July 10, 2011

Books connect us all, Lat, Marmaduke Pickthall and Yusuf Ali

This being the auspicious month of July (auspicious that is, because it's my birth month, hehehe, and that fella Julius Ceaser's), I received my 20% discount voucher from my fav local book shop. I went to its nearest outlet and bought some books. Considering the number of books I am still reading, I decided to buy comics by Malaysia's numero uno satirist called Lat (4 of his books), a graphic novel prelude of the current Transformers movie for Mika (okay, okay... I was curious to read it too), an Indian-based epic entitled 'Shantaram' for Heche (she is big into Indian romance / drama / family / mythology literature written by both Indians and non-Indians) and another little non-fiction for me called 'Brave Hearts', about two influential Muslim British converts, messrs Pickthall and Philby.

I was particularly curious of Marmaduke Pickthall because the first ever english translation of the holy Quran which I saw in my house was by him. Many years on, while studying in Leeds University, I acquired another Quranic translation by Yusuf Ali, whose biography 'Searching for Solace' was written by the very same author of 'Brave Hearts', M.A. Sherif. So I am doubly curious now.

Lat is an amazing cartoonist, and for the longest time he has been depicting Malaysian life at its funniest. In a world where 'face' and pride is uber important, he has somehow been given considerable leeway and elbow room to poke fun at our politicians, including from the ruling incumbent. I think this is partly because his cartoons are never particularly vicious, and is just funny without any particular political agenda as pro or anti establishment. His personal story is his best work, recalling his life as a boy in Perak, and later his early years in the New Straits Times newspaper as a cub reporter. Below is a particularly hilarious cartoon of two titans in our political landscape - Dr. Mahathir and Lee Kwan Yew, the former Prime Ministers of Malaysia and Singapore.

I love books, comics and reading. In some ways, I have never really grown up at all. And for this little solace, I am thankful.

Have a lovely Sunday, sunshine. Read any good books lately?

Pax Taufiqa.

A footnote on “Brave Hearts” : The other Muslim English man in the book, Philby (as in Harry St. John Bridger Philby), also piqued my interest because while reading “A Climate of Treason” by Andrew Boyle many years ago (a book whose attempted ban was so unsuccessfully attempted by the Thatcher government), I came across a Philby as in the father of Kim Philby, a notorious member of the Cambridge spyring. I remembered how the younger Philby adored and idolized the father, who was often missing, making headways in the diplomatic scene in the Middle East. I didn’t want to mention it earlier as I haven’t actually read the book, but having perused the first few pages, I was right… this Philby is indeed the Philby whose personality I became acquainted with in a book about British spies and Russian agents – again the books connect to one another.

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