|The Challenge to Write a Novel|
|Written by Dr. Azizan Bahari|
|Thursday, 10 March 2011 02:10|
A colleague here, with whom I enjoy sharing and exchanging views on Malaysian and Indonesian novels and religious trends, strongly suggested that I better pen my own novel now. Of course I said I am not yet ready, unless liberated from teaching and the chores… But he said “no”, I shouldn’t leave, instead should continue to teach, and engage in discussions and debates here, while starting to write...
The idea is certainly good, but my lack of discipline and concentration seems really matters. I am hoping to focus on and complete my book projects on volunteerism in Malaysia (which is long overdue), a reflection on (cum reminiscence of) the youth movement in the 1970s, a handbook on working with communities (which should in fact be my true labour of love!), and an anthology of my website’s notes and other comments and, therefore, thought that novels or other creative endeavors, must wait…
All this could well be my excuse, really… or genuinely my own limitation, either or with the same non-result! I always imagine that I could be free from any job routine as soon as possible that would allow me to travel, read, and do a bit of writing for pleasure, self-fulfillment, posterity….? However, for now and indefinite future, I suppose, I can only continue to dream….
This is not to suggest that I haven’t really thought out or scribble here and there about this (novel) project. I did. In fact, while on visits to UK previously, I often made sure to check out current titles on the subject (“how to write a novel”) in the bookstores. There are also plans and specific short notes on incidents, periods/eras, people, etc. which I feel could serve as a useful outline/framework for my writing later on.
Also on record I have read and always enjoyed the works by the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Maxim Gorky, Milan Kundera, Salman Rushdie, Pramoedya Ananta Toer, Khaled Hosseini, Gao Xing Jian, etc. Indeed it is their books which inspired me to contemplate this project in the first place. Every time after consuming their written words I thought I also had the stuff – real or fantasy – to share with my friends and readers.
And lest I be accused of lack of patriotism, or have lost my feet in the Malaysian ground (although in writing and other arts we have long ignored that arbitrary geopolitical borders which tend to limit our freedom to be creative), I had also digested or at least kept abreast with the works of Ahmad Boestamam, Shahnon Ahmad, Anwar Ridhuan, A.Samad Said, Abdullah Hussein, Azizi Abdullah, S. Othman Kelantan, and Said Zahari (to mention a few), and also their how-to-write-a-fiction guides which are prominently placed on my shelves for ready consultation.. But the postponement or delay to write is really horrendous! I just couldn’t keep up the momentum every time I started despite creating ala-Naguib Mahfouz’s spacious, with-a-view study (office for him) for myself in our newly-built house! Surely I have no one but myself to blame!
In any case, why a novel when there are so many others that would easily allow me to switch on my memory, limited knowledge and experience, and skills and expertise, and dictate my fingers to dance and dance on the keyboard? Why an obscure and uncertain project when there are many other interesting genres, not to mention academic stuff, which could easily earn me peer recognition and higher-up endorsement particularly in this era of key performance index, ISO, and their twins and cousins?
I did try some popular, hands-on, and important readings for certain specific audience before and the response has been generous (even literally/financially). I could continue such a project and made myself economically stable to enjoy my non-pension “retirement”. Why novel, then?
Perhaps it is the sheer beauty and love of literature that is in me – a love which in my case could hardly be gauged and justified by the amount of time I dedicate to it. Perhaps the many little anecdotes and encounters that I have accumulated over the years which I feel like sharing – albeit not all – with my friends and readers. Perhaps my alter ego is suggesting that I should (before too late!) allow my conscience to break loose, and fiction surely provides a great medium and privilege for such liberation. There may be other “perhaps”, but one thing seems certain now, and that is, I should write a novel…