Thursday, April 2, 2009



Malaysian Literature in English (MLIE) is not really a strange thing for me, as I used to be exposed to MLIE during my secondary school years but that exposure was not a deep one. MLIE was inserted as a subtopic in English subject under the literature section in form 1 and form 4 students as one of English Language syllabus. I had learnt some literature works by Shirley Lim, Muhammad Haji Salleh and Che Husna Azhari. However, the lessons was only focusing on the surface of the works as we the students must knew the story pretty well to answer some questions that will be set on the PMR and SPM exams.

When I was in my foundation year and during first semester of my first year degree, I had also learnt some MLIE works and in fact in the first year degree I had to do an assignment based on Shirley Lim’s poem entitle Monsoon History. For me, that was the first I had to go through one of the MLIE works in a very detail manner. It was really open my eyes to see the back side of MLIE works. The quality of the MLIE works actually at par of the international level.

In my opinion, certain things MLIE works mostly based on the Malaysian culture and value. These works also are not exposed internationally because it is difficult to understand by foreign country. Besides, the works are rarely published and hard to find in the market. Most of the works are also being done in bilingual version, using a very simple storyline and understandable. Last but not least, the reviews and references of these literature works are very hard to find whether in the form of reference book or internet article.

As I learnt from Quayyum’s article an Overview of Malaysian Writer in English; nonetheless I knew that MLIE is something that is hard to be accepted by Malaysian. Not that it is being rejected at all but only certain people who really appreciate the work because to most Malaysian the mother language is the most suitable language to be use in producing the literary work and not English. Furthermore, most of Malaysian simply loves to read stuff in Bahasa Malaysia compared to English. The situation worsen when the National language Act 1967 and the Amendment Act 1971 were reinforced where to write in English was discouraged compared to write in the Malay language.

I learn about MLIE deeply by reading MLIE stuff, books and the background of the authors. Although it is not easy to search about MLIE works in the websites, but there are still a few works being publish there. Besides, the discussion and presentation that we held in class also build better understanding in MLIE. If I have any doubt about MLIE, there is always a kind hearted lecturer there to explain and make it crystal clear for me.

In spite of many challenges and difficulties faced by writers in the English language in Malaysia, they are still surviving until now. Maybe someday I would turn up to be one of them in the scene. I learnt that is not easy to be MLIE writers but the challenging part is actually the gold of life.


Lloyd Fernando's Green is the Colour is a very interesting novel of ideas, set in an almost dystopian Malaysia in the aftermath of the racial riots of May 13, 1969. I play a role as an editor in this assignment. I found Lloyd Fernando is not like other typical Malay writer and unique in his works. He uses many of academic references in his detachment writing style but the message shines through nonetheless. Green is the Colour is also a book which is full of compassion. He was promoting this idea of bilingualism; people in Malaysia should know at least two languages, Malay language and English language as well.

I regard the novel as one of the most important works of Malaysian fiction in any language. They came from a writer who loved his country enough to advocate eschewing narrow tribal concerns in favour of humanism and harmony. Lloyd Fernando also highlights the limitations of multiracialism as a guiding ideology for Malaysia in this novel.

In the national capital, Malay civil servants behave as though nothing untoward has happened. They mouth neo-Confucian platitudes about loyalty and patriotism, and ritualistically denounce Western influence on Malaysian society. In fact, the country is awash in disruption, disorder, and violence. Cars are dented, glass is splintered, and Hindu shrines are desecrated. There are curfews, roadblocks, and military checkpoints. Armed militia roams the landscape, assaulting and torturing the enemies of powerful politicians and Islamic fundamentalism.

Fernando is superb on the context of Malaysian place and time. His love of the physical landscape verges on pantheism, emphasizing the seductive appeal of the red hibiscus and the angsana tree, the cool, flowing water of the rivers, the green padi plants of the sawah, and the taste of fruits such as mangosteens, bananas, rambutans, and durians. There is also the easy familiarity with an urban academic fellow.

Llyod Fernando had early education in Singapore and later having obtaining a Ph.D. in English from the University of Leeds, England. His education gained in overseas influence the way he express his thought and ideas and it can be seen in the characters portrayed in the novel.

According to Peter Wicks, one of the associate professor of Asian Studies in his article entitle Lloyd Fernando’s Literary Vision of Malaysia, the four main characters are drawn from upper-class multiracial elite, held together by the bonds of school, university, professional careers, and the English language. All of them are doomed. There is ‘Harry’ Dahlan, an Anglicized Malay lawyer, activist, and social critic notorious for his unconventional views and outspoken behaviour. There is Yun Ming, the Malay-speaking, idealistic civil servant who works for the Department of Unity, but finds very little of it outside Kuala Lumpur. There is Sara (short for Siti Sara Hanafiah), the beautiful academic sociologist trapped in a loveless marriage to a fundamentalist convert. There is Gita, another academic sociologist and Sara’s best friend, who marries Harry Dahlan only to see him arrested and brutally tortured for his beliefs.

There is great depth of characterization in this novel. Sara is ostensibly the key integrative personality for the plot. Most of the male characters lust after her, including the sinister, devious, power-mad Panglima, a senior officer in the Department of Unity whose ethnic origins are shrouded in mystery and ambiguity. He could be Thai, or Cambodian, or Indian or Eurasian, but passes for Malay. It is the ill-fated, cross-cultural relationship between Sara and Yun Ming which centres the novel. Their passion and intensity cannot prevent their arrest by Muslim authorities in a country, which has descended into a scenario of horror and anarchy worthy of Francis Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now. Yun Ming is savagely beaten and Sara raped and assaulted by the Panglima to the extent that, at the end of the book, she cannot bear to contemplate male company ever again.

Ethnicity, inflamed by Islamic Puritanism, matters most in the end. Yun Ming might once have told his superiors that Malaysians of Chinese and Indian descent had to disregard their cultural roots and adopt one national way of doing things, but even the obliging Yun Ming balked at asserting that all Malaysians should follow the same religion. Sara comes closest to the truth when she reflects in calmer times: -

“Nobody could get May sixty-nine right, she thought. It was hopeless to pretend you could be objective about it. …the wound beneath continued to run pus.”

In Green is the Colour we also can see Llyod try to express his feeling about the challenge he encountered in his writing. The challenge is about his constant attempt to find ways of expressing himself in English without sounding like English. He avoided stock epithets and turns of phrase. He strove for Malaysian inflection. People always mistook him as a patrician professor of English because they never saw the colloquial Malaysian side of Lloyd. Green is the Colour for example also does not have any colloquial language.

This fictional works by Lloyd Fernando offer testimony to the persistence of substantial minority cultures that are different from the Malaysia as defined by ethnic Malay nationalism. The reader is left in no doubt that Fernando has a deep and profound affection for Malaysia, which is, of course, the land of his birth and upbringing. He yearns for recognition of cultural pluralism that is more than political lip service, and for a larger view of Malaysia that is integrative rather than assimilations. Above all that, this novel affected me more than I had anticipated.


Getting involved with Malaysian Literature in English (MLIE) makes me enlightened by the fact that there is too little I know about MLIE. Mostly just about how difficult to get the sources of the products and there are few barriers for the writers to express their thought and creativity. Living in multi-racial country definitely limited they aspect that they could touch as every race has their own sensitive issues to ponder about. The growth of the literature works written in English can be said quite slowly if we want to compare with literature works written in Malay.

Always in my mind the questions of why they wrote such of works? It keeps getting to my mind each time I come across with literature works in English. How they get such ideas to write something like this? Is it because they have encountered it before? Or they just borrow others experiences concerning the matter they planned to write about and compose it beautifully as theirs? Something to think about isn’t it? If I have the chance to meet the MLIE writers, I would like to ask why they use English instead of Malay. Is it because they feel some sort of excitement or merely they want their works to be published worldwide?

After some times being surrounded by the “marginalized” literature works, I began to notice few things which before it were in opaque state. First, the writers face with the difficulties to write beyond our norm because they are bounded to Malaysian culture and beliefs. They have to obey with certain aspects of life like religion and customs which they cannot simply make comment even using their literature license. The writers also again have to admit that the status of Bahasa Malaysia as national language in some how influence them in the sense of their works. Malaysian especially Malays will go for Malay literature works and the size of Malay readers who advocate MLIE writers is not that big. Only people from higher status of education will read and get the message embedded by the writers in their literature works. One more common thing about MLIE writers is they share almost the same issues to express their thought through their works. They commonly write about racial, political and religion issues which considered sensitive issues to some of the Malaysian.

All this I learned by the acceptance of Malaysian of the literature works in English. They still need some times to get themselves used to this kind of literature because they are set to accept everything in Malay. The difficulties to get the copy of MLIE writers in market also indicates that the publishers face with problem that low demand from readers for the works of MLIE writers. Isn’t this demonstrably obvious that the acceptance of Malaysian towards works of MLIE writers is still low?

No matter how cold the acceptance of Malaysian towards MLIE writers’ works, the essential part is the intention of the writers to make the readers aware about certain issues regarding our country and how to maintain what we have enjoyed now.


Green is the Colour (GITC) by Lloyd Fernando was written based on the racial issue occurred on the 13Th May 1969. He used this issue because; he wanted to make Malaysian aware about the importance of unity. There were many people killed and chaos took over the calm and peace of Malaysia during that black day. The blood shed happened due to lack of unity and poor communication between Malays and Chinese. He wrote the story precisely to make the Malaysian aware about the issue and to inculcate them that Malaysia could be a harmonious country if Malaysian is willing to accept each other. Lloyd Fernando actually makes the readers feel how exactly the condition during the hard time. One of the comments received by Lloyd for his novel from Koh Buck Song, The Straits Times, July 10 1993, “ A sensitive novel about racial and religious tolerance set against the shadow of the 1969 racial riots in Kuala Lumpur”, by this comment it is clearly that the main two issues of this novel are racial and religious tolerance.

Most of the MLIE writers play around the similar issue which used by Lloyd to write their piece of work. Perhaps it is because the bad experiences they went through in their childhood and they do not want the future generation to encounter it again. Perhaps they also hoping that through their works, they could make Malaysian become open to accept other races in Malaysia and be tolerate enough to shape the peaceful Malaysia and the better place to live in. In this novel, Lloyd used the relationship between Sara and Yun Ming and also the bond between Gita and Dahlan who finally became husband and wife to set an example that Malaysia could be a harmonious country if everyone is practicing mutual acceptance.

Besides racial issue, religious issue is another common issue used by MLIE writers to flavour their story. As in GITC, Lloyd used the religious issue among Malays as portray by Sara’s husband, Omar. Omar literally wanted to take Sara to begin totally new life in Jerangau where Tok Guru Bahaudin claimed will lead them to more pure life surrounded by Islamic teachings. Sara who used to live in a modern society and her way of thinking is a bit westernized make her feels reluctant to leave her present life and to start a new life in a rural area. Omar is so fervour to set life there just because he went there few times and he is so mesmerized by how the community there lives a simple life. Omar is fed up with what he deems the decadence of Western ways which tarnished the race and that makes him seek to find spiritual peace with Islamic way of life. The way Tok Guru Bahaudin gives talk makes Omar believe in him and decided to set a new life in Jerangau but Sara realized the mistake she made and she went away from the nothingness as her father, Lebai Hanafiah has passed away.

Even though the 13th May 1969 now is a history, but the possibility for the chaos to revisit Malaysia is still there. If government did not take brilliant action, we cannot afford to have what we have today. Problems related with political and religion always crop up in multi-racial country like Malaysia. Neelambigai alias Fatimah binti Abdullah whose her body neither be claimed by her family or Religious Department because her family considered her as an outsider because of her traversing of religious and as for Religious Department, there is no proof of the conversion for them to bury her body. This case is an example of intolerance of religion and unwillingness to adapt with multi-culture of Malaysian.

MLIE writers are very concern about the certain issues raised by certain race. They used these issues to write their story and at the same time they used this issue to make Malaysian think how these issues could influence and give negative impact on the integrity of Malaysian. Since Malaysia is a multi-racial country where each race has it own customs and beliefs. Each race seems like want to show that their race is the best and always want to be on top in each aspect. This issue once discussed by Yun Ming and Panglima. Yun Ming said that Chinese and Indians had to forget where they came from and they must follow one way of live. What he tries to say is, they should refer themselves as Malaysian and follow all the rules issued by Malaysian Government. If they could instill this in their mind, no more riots, no more demonstrations, no more “13th May” would happen.

Even though MLIE writers use English as a medium to convey their creative works and perhaps it appeals to some that they are not totally ‘Malaysian’, but the messages contain in their works is essential. English is getting accepted by Malaysian but does not mean Bahasa Malaysia will be less used. One thing to remember is that, Bahasa Malaysia is the tool used to integrate Malay, Chinese and Indian to form Malaysia as what we are now despite the predicament and sensitive issues raised during the process of unity.


Malaysian literature in English (MLIE) is something new when I started my second semester in my second year degree. Frankly, I only have been exposed to English and other writers’ art of works from all over the world. Yes, I have learmt few Malaysian writers’ writings in my secondary schooling. However, no other approaches from my teachers to explain any further about MLIE. I am so glad and very fortunate for taking this course because I am able to learn more about MLIE its challenges, and its future.

What I know about MLIE is very little when I started my semester early in 2009. What I know is, MLIE is having very slow growth in our own country. There are several factors that will be discussed later, and also the limited sources to gather information and to do researches on MLIE and the Malaysian writers. There are several determined Malaysian writers that survive in the literature field. However, the issues and theme they brought in the writings are restricted to our culture, and bound to the beliefs. In addition, piece of Malaysian writers’ I have read show that they are influenced by their mother tongue. Besides that, Malaysian is not exposed to literature in English. Due to that, there are lacks of appreciation to the writers compared to the writers in Malay literature. As the result, writers in English literature feel being marginalized and isolated.

Deep in me I know MLIE contains a lot of story to share. There are several things I would like to know while studying MLIE. I would like to know, how the writers get inspired to write such beautiful piece. Why the writers write such issues and I wonder if there are any personal experiences involved. Some of them are old and I want to know, are they still alive so that we could get primary sources in order to complete the assignments. Besides that, were they genuinely writers, and another question that puzzle me is, why is MLIE not profitable. These are only part and partial of questions contained in my little brain.

Throughout the lesson, I have learned that MLIE faces many challenges and risks in order to be in the system. MLIE is lacking of the freedom of speech due to certain rules and laws writers need to obey to. They are not allowed to talk on some sensitive issues for instance political, racial, and religion issues. Since Malaysia is a multiracial country with dramatic history involving, it is difficult to write such issues although basically government is giving such ‘freedom’ to write. It is normal to writers write based on their experiences they encountered. It is because; they could elaborate more on the topics and issue. Other than that, I have learned that Malaysian is hardly appreciating the MLIE due to several factors. The factors are, prejudices towards English that is being second language in the country plus the thought that English is still colonize language. This conservative ways in looking MLIE lead Malaysian to think inwardly.

Literature is interesting. I learnt MLIE in few ways. I read the article about MLIE and digest the ideas and thoughts of the writers, and try to understand their difficulties. I compare and contrast the acceptance among readers in Malaysia and abroad and found that all the assumptions are quite true. I read their writings and understand the issues they brought in the story. With the consistent guide from our lecturer made the process to understand much easier. I did researches on the writers and their writings and through presentations and interactive discussions, we could learn better and as time goes by, I started to fall in love with MLIE. MLIE generate my creative thinking and allows me to speak my mind and share in class. Though some of the ideas are acceptable, and some are not, but I realize that I am developing and practicing the writers’ ritual, speaking out loud the ideas.

I have developed the love on MLIE in a room of my heart. I will not stop reading and gather the ideas so that I could appreciate the writers in future. Being an English teacher is an advantage for me to expose the MLIE to the younger generations. My endless prayer to the development of MLIE in future and may people could accept its existence and appreciate the gifted writers. I hope I will be one of the writers in Malaysia and reach readers through my writings.


Green is the colour is such a great piece written by Lloyd Fernando. It is his second novel after Scorpion Orchid that left a big impact to he readers. Lloyd Fernando is known as a daring writer who speaks his mind clearly in his very own way. As an overseas graduate, he had learnt to express his ideas through writings very well. Though the issues he brought up were sensitive, yet they are right. Green is the colour is very special novel. The reason is, Lloyd Fernando took almost two decades to finish it after his first novel. I might say he is very particular in this novel due to the sensitive issues and story lines that be the back bone in the novel. However, his guts to write about the issues, precisely on political and religion issues at that era through the novel should be praised since not many writers would dare to write such issues. Furthermore Malaysia was still be haunted by the bloodshed happened in May 1969.

Lloyd Fernando was born in Sri Lanka before his family emigrated to Singapore and had his early education in Singapore. Unfortunately he had a hard life when his education was interrupted due to the war. He was raised in Sri Lanka for few years and he had exposed to the great fight between Singhalese and Tamils. In Malaysia, Lloyd experienced the same thing too. He witnessed the chaotic situation due to the inequality among races and as he witnessed, he got the idea to convey his thought and opinion in his writings. During the 13th of May 1969 tragedy, no one expected such riot would happen. Nevertheless it was bound to happen and was waiting to happen. Why I say so? It is because; the racial tension had started since in the British colonialism and communist era and continued until several tragic episodes in all over Malaya and caused few murders that raised the anger among races. The break and rules system introduced by British is the beginning of the crack. The three races were divided that led to the unsatisfaction due to the inequality. Chinese enjoyed the most privileges living in the town while Malays and Indians were living in suffer. Slowly, the unity had broken and the revenge was paid in the tragic tragedy of 13th May 1969. In the Green is The Colour, Lloyd Fernando included three main races living in Malaysia, precisely Malay, Chinese and Indian. Basically, the vary characters show that Malaysia is a multiracial country with many conflicts. As I said earlier, Lloyd Fernando was raised in Sri Lanka and experienced a great fight between Singhalese and Tamils. Later on in Malaysia, when the bloodshed happened he had gathered many experiences and starts to write. His background helped him a lot in writings, especially his personal experiences. The difficulties he encountered in his early age tauht him to be strong and tough. As saying goes, when the going gets tough, only the tough gets going.he used his experienced very well and came out with a great piece.

As the racial tension is caused by the inequality and the dissatisfaction among the races, Lloyd shows it clearly in the novel. He uses many settings such as in the village, in the town, and not forgotten to mention the two types of Malaysians that is educated people and uneducated people that moves the plot thorugh out the novel. Though the issues are on political and religious isues, Lloyd states clearly how the conflicts occurred. The time setting of the novel is after the 13th May 1969 tragedy. Although the tragedy was over the tension was still in the air. It can be shown in the characters of Sara and Yun Ming. Lloyd tries to portray that even they are different races with different political of view and religion, but there is still have another aspect that could unite them, which is love. In short, the brilliant Lloyd wants to convey his thought that through love, problems can be solved. Are not that lovely?

The tragic tragedy had changed citizens of Malaysia. Each races, regardless what race they are, are very prejudice to each other. Malays had negative perceptions on Chinese by saying they are immigrant who tries to conquer Malaysia. On the other hand, Chinese are under estimate Malays due to the low economical status resulted to the break and rules system introduced by the British. Not forgotten the Indians are felt marginalized and many others complain. In an article titled ‘The tragedy of 13th May 1969’ states that Chinese called Malays with names and Malays were burst out. They, too, taunted the Malays with insults, using similar words that had been hurled by the previous day’s demonstrators, such as: “Melayu balik kampung, kita sudah berkuasa sekarang” (“Malays, return to your villages, we are now in power”) and “Hey Sakai bolih balik ke hutan” (“Hey Sakai, you can return to the jungle”).

The prejudices and the bias are portrayed in the novel while Yun Ming is not equally treated just because he is a Chinese even though he is not racist. The same thing goes in religious issues. During the tragedy of 13th May 1969, people were insulting each other religious. The society was so out of control and the conflicts and tension lead Lloyd Fernando to write. Speaking his mind in the novel of Green is the colour, Lloyd developed the plot very well with several dramatic incidents. As a young generation, we have no clear picture of the tragedy. We are very fortunate because through the novel, we are able to borrow his experiences and put our shoes in the past generations to feel the tense and hurt. It was not easy, and how I pray the tragedy will not repeating. God bless Malaysia.


1.0 Is history evolving?

Yes, in the novel of Green is the colour, history is axiomatic evolving. Precisely, the tragic tragedy of the May 13 1969 caused a lot of chaotic and left a big impact to each Malaysian at that time. The racial tension led people to start a fight and the riots were out of control. The bloodshed somehow influenced Lloyd Fernando in his second novel, which is Green is the colour and blend the most sensitive issues very well.

2.0 Do writers think alike?

To us, the thinking of the writers is not alike. Each writer has their own thoughts and perceptions on certain issues and their personal experiences together with their observations are different. Even though they brought in same issues yet the way they portray on the issues are not like to one another. Nevertheless every single writers are very unique in their own way.

3.0 What shape of the minds MLIE writers?

There are several factors that shape the minds of MLIE writers. One of them is their upbringing and personal experiences for instance Lloyd Fernando in his second novel. His earlier stage of life living in Sri Lanka annoyed him that further more led him to move to the Singapore. He became more open minded on certain issues regardless the sensitivity of the issues. However he still respect the sensitivity yet speaking his mind.

4.0 What common issues are highlighted in MLIE?

In MLIE, there are several common issues being highlighted by thw writers. One of them is the social issues. The conservative thinking of the society that denies the changes often being highlighted. Another issue is the political issue. As can be seen, in the Green is the colour, political issue is one of the main issue highlighted. Apart from that, the cultural issue is another issue often being highlighted. Each writer will bring their cultural in their writings. They will discuss the inequality and the perceptions of the society towards certain issues and topics.

5.0 How are the issues related to the past and the present?

The issues related to the past and the present through the issues. In each art of work, there will be issues that intended to be highlighted. The issues aro normally will make sense in today’s world especially in the seek of better understanding of the history. The readers will read the piece and tries to relate it in today’s world. Besides that the reader will find the moral values in each piece since each piece contains many moral values. to one level, the reader will reflect and learn to not let the past to be repeated.

6.0 How are the issues relevant to the future?

Unity issue is relevant to the future. people are getting further to one another. There are lacking of communication and unable to understand each race better due to the hectic lifestyles. With that reason, the importance of unity can be highlighted in art of work and relevant to the future generation. Besides that, the political issue is crucial in future. writer should teach reader to accept the differences in political, and be more relevant and sensitive to other races. The good understanding of the differences will later benefit the future generations.

7.0 What issues are typical to a particular race?

The very common issue to a particular race is economical inequality. Another issue is on the religion practices.

8.0 Why are some issues common to a particular race?

Each race is unsatisfied to the inequality and question the government. Worse part is the blame is put on the government’s side and at the end it will break the unity and cause a lot of havoc. Other than that, religious differences also might be the main issue. It is due to the lack of respect and understanding to other religion.

9.0 What does the future hold for MLIE?

MLIE has a bright future if each of us know the benefit of reading MLIE. MLIE is able to bring the unity back and open up people minds on certain issues. It can be a food of thought and enlighten people on certain issues. Besides that, if we could appreciate MLIE as good as we do in other languages, there will be more creative writers with fresh and optimistic thoughts break into the scene. Those young writers are crucial to discuss the issues in the eyes af young generation.


Lloyd Fernando's Green is the Colour is a very interesting novel. The country is still scarred by violence, vigilante groups roam the countryside, religious extremists set up camp in the hinterland, there are still sporadic outbreaks of fighting in the city, and everyone, all the time, is conscious of being watched. It comes as some surprise to find that the story is actually a contemporary (and very clever) reworking of a an episode from the Misa Melayu, an 18th century classic written by Raja Chulan.

In this climate of unease, Fernando employs a multi-racial cast of characters. At the centre of the novel there's a core of four main characters, good (if idealistic) young people who cross the racial divide to become friends, and even fall in love.

There's Dahlan, a young lawyer and activist who invites trouble by making impassioned speech on the subject of religious intolerance on the steps of a Malacca church; his friend from university days, Yun Ming, a civil servant working for the Ministry of Unity who seeks justice by working from within the government.

The most fully realised character of the novel is Siti Sara, and much of the story is told from her viewpoint. A sociologist and academic, she's newly returned from studies in America where she found life much more straightforward, and trapped in a loveless marriage to Omar, a young man much influenced by the Iranian revolution who seeks purification by joining religious commune. The hungry passion between Yun Ming and Siti - almost bordering on violence at times and breaking both social and religious taboos - is very well depicted. (Dahlan falls in love with Gita, Sara's friend and colleague, and by the end of the novel has made an honest woman of her.)

Like the others, Sara is struggling to make sense of events :

Nobody could get may sixty-nine right, she thought. It was hopeless to pretend you could be objective about it. speaking even to someone close to you, you were careful for fear the person might unwittingly quote you to others. if a third person was present, it was worse, you spoke for the other person's benefit. If he was Malay you spoke one way, Chinese another, Indian another. even if he wasn't listening. in the end the spun tissue, like an unsightly scab, became your vision of what happened; the wound beneath continued to run pus.

Although the novel is narrated from a third person viewpoint, it is curious that just one chapter is narrated by Sara's father, one of the minor characters, an elderly village imam and a man of great compassion and insight. This shift in narration works so well that I'm surprised Fernando did not make wider use of it.

The novel has villain, of course, the unsavoury Pangalima, a senior officer in the Department of Unity and a man of uncertain racial lineage (he looks Malay, has adopted Malay culture, so of course, that's enough to make him kosher!). He has coveted Sara for years, and is determined to win her sexual favours at any cost.

The novel is not without significant weaknesses. It isn't exactly a rollicking read, and seems rather stilted - not least because there are just too many talking heads with much of the action taking place "offstage", including the rape at the end, which is really the climax of the whole novel.

If we're interested in Yun Ming, Dahlan and Omar it is because of the contradictory ideas they espouse, but in each case their arguments could have been explored in greater depth and the characters themselves have been more fully fleshed.

The plot of Green is the Colour never really holds together as well as it might but seems to be perpetually rushing off in new directions (as actually do the characters!) without fully exploring what is set up already. (I was particularly disappointed that we don't get to spend more time with Omar in the commune.)

But the strengths of the novel more than makes up for these lapses.

There's been a lot of talk about local authors not being brave enough to write about the great mustn't-be-talked-abouts of race, religion and politics in Malaysian society. Here's one author who was brave enough to do just that. (And look, hey, the sky didn't cave in!)

Here's an author too who was able to think himself into the skin of people of different races - how many since have been able, or prepared, to make that imaginative leap?

Here too is an author who is able to convincingly evoke the landscape of Malaysia both urban and rural in carefully chosen details.

Above all, though, one feels that here is an author who says what needed to be said. Heck, what still needs to be said!

Here, he's using Dahlan as his mouthpiece, but the sentiments are clearly the author's own :

All of us must make amends. Each and every one of us has to make an individual effort. Words are not enough. We must show by individual actions that we will not tolerate bigotry and race hatred.


Lloyd Fernando is a MALAYSIAN but he was born in Sri Lanka in 1926, and in 1938, at the age of twelve, he migrated to Singapore with his family. This early migration across the Indian Ocean had an enriching influence on Fernando, the writer and scholar, as it was to plant the seeds of a transcultural, diasporic imagination in him at an impressionable age. Life was moving along at a steady pace, and Fernando continued his schooling at St Patrick’s, but the Japanese occupation of Singapore from 1943 to 1945 dealt a severe blow, interrupting his formal schooling and, most tragically, costing his father’s life in one of the Japanese bombing raids. Following his father’s death, Fernando started working as a trishaw rider, construction labourer and apprentice mechanic, to support himself and the family. He also joined the Ceylon branch of the Indian National Army, not impelled by any ideology but out of a sheer necessity for self-sustenance.

After the war, Fernando completed his Cambridge School Certificate and embarked on a school teaching career. In 1955, he entered the University of Singapore, graduating in 1959 with double Honours in English and Philosophy. In 1960, he joined the University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur as an assistant lecturer, and returned to the same post four years later, having obtaining a Ph.D. in English from the University of Leeds, England. In 1967, he was elevated to Professor and Head of English at the University of Malaya, posts he held until 1979. People retire at Malaysia at 55, and so when it was time for him to retire, Lloyd didn’t want to have to continue on a yearly contract, and not be certain of anything. He decided to take up law. He went to England and studied law at City University and then at Middle Temple, coming back with his law degrees. He joined a firm, and eventually started his own practice here, which he continued right up to the time he had a stroke, which was in December 1997.