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Malay Literature

Malay Literature

Segala pekerjaan pedang itu boleh dibuat dengan kalam
  Adapun pekerjaan kalam itu tiada boleh dibuat dengan pedang
  Dan beberapa ribu dan laksa pedang yang sudah terhunus
  Dengan segores kalam jadi tersarung

All deeds of sword might be replaced by word
But do not replace deeds of tongue by sword
And remember that ten thousands of the drew swords
were sheathed by the words.

(Raja Ali Haji, in the introduction of Bustan al Katibin)

Kata pena akulah raja ini dunia
  Siapa yang mengambil aku dengan tangannya
  Akan kusampaikan kerjanya


Pen said that he is the king of the world
Whoever takes me with his own hand
I would live up to his work

(The Persian poem quoted by Raja Ali Haji in the introduction of Bustan al-Katibin)

Malay Literature is a term for thousands of literary works created – and developing – in the Malay areas. Malay literature has continued to suffer from developments and modifications enormously influenced by historical phases of pre-Hindu, post-Hindu, and Islam. The developments and modifications then enable to establish new genres, development stages, and other factors outside from the literature studies. Those three points then become inseparable as they are very interrelated each others.

Malay literature develops well after the arrival of Islam to the Archipelago. They mostly raise themes on social intercourse and its dynamics of certain length of times in Malay areas. Before the coming of Islam, Malay literature tended to explore various themes on social conditions outside the Archipelago such as in India. Even more, Malay literary works of this period were greatly influenced by Hinduism and beliefs in deities.

To cope with the dynamics of Malay literature‘s development that still exist up to now, attempts to classify Malay literature into two big categories: Malay Classic Literature and Malay Modern Literature. Basically, Malay Classic Literature represents the number, but limited, of literary works that long time ago, were centred solely in royal families, Hindu temples, and certain people‘s gatherings. In another words, Malay classic literature of this period could only be read by people from royal families; while common people might only enjoy literary works through public oral performances.

For Malay Modern Literature, the classification is based on the efforts to compile thousands of literary works, especially folklore, scattered over the Archipelago. It is signed with Balai Pustaka Publisher‘s programme in translating those scattered folklores into Malay language and publishing them in 1920. Starting from this point we can freely read the beauty of literary works and take part actively in creating and developing Malay literary works.

Indrojiono (sas/01/07-08)

Translated by Irfan Nugroho (ter/71/10-08)

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