This anthology of traditional and classical works is a collection of poetry and fiction, legal digests, epistles and religious treatises, narrated, sung or written in the Malay language, in the Malay Archipelago. This language was and is widespread in the Malay Peninsula, Singapore, Sabah, Sarawak, Brunei, in Kalimantan, (Indonesian Borneo), including Pontianak, Ketapang, Sintang, Banjarmasin, Kutai and Samarinda. It was the lingua franca for most of Insular Southeast Asia and even in parts of Continental Southeast Asia, and to be found in Southern Thailand, in the provinces of Satun, Patani and Nakorn Sithammarat, and some islands in Southern Philippines.
This time-span of traditional Malay literature covers a period from the earliest beginnings of oral works, through the inscriptions on stone and metal, and through further developments in oral storytelling, the advent of writing. In the decades of the 18th and 19th centuries a collision with western colonial powers and their cultures has resulted in a literature that reflected this traumatic confrontation and also, the so-called ‘modern’ elements. Along with this too we notice the rise of the new genres of the report, the travelogue, the autobiography and biography, which interestingly are prominent antecedents of modern literature.
National Laureate and Tokoh Akademik Negara recipient Dr. Muhammad Haji Salleh has published more than 70 books of poetry, criticism, travelogue, autobiography, translation and transcriptions from Jawi manuscripts. As a poet, he has received many national and international awards, and his endeavour in translating translating Malay literature to readers into English has brought Malaysian literature to readers across Asia, Europe and America. He has also taught and received fellowships in universities in Malaysia, the United States, Brunei, Germany and the Netherlands. His academic masterpiece, Puitika Sastera Melayu (Malay Literary Poetics), which delves into the minds of writers and the literary culture of the Nusantara, is now in its third edition. Other recent publications include Introduction to Malaysian Literature (2015), Pantun: The Poetry of Passion (2018), Seeking Hang Tuah (2020), The Genealogy of Kings (2020), Melayu Pulau Pinang/Malays of Penang (2020), Hang Tuah di Lautan Ceritera (2021), Sebermula Maka Tersebutlah … Sebuah Hikayat Diri (2021), Padang Perahu Di Lautan (2022), Belajar Jadi Atuk dan Wan (2022), and Seratus Pulau Di Muara (2022).
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