Around one hundred friends and fans of Malaysian writer KS Maniam, comprising of literary figures and academics gathered to pay tribute to the man and the writer in an event called KS Maniam’s Writing: A Celebration at the Kuala Lumpur Teaching Centre, University of Nottingham, Kuala Lumpur on 9th March 2019. This event also coincided with the launching of his latest book, KS Maniam: Selected Works. The event was co-organised by the School of English, University of Nottingham Malaysia and his publisher Maya Press.
In his welcome speech, Professor Danton Remoto, Head, School of English highlighted KS Maniam’s distinguished writing career which has stretched over 55 years. Maniam published his first work, in 1964, a poem when he was 22 years old. His short stories have won first prize at national level short story competitions that we organised by the New Straits Times in 1987 and 1990. Maniam is also the inaugural recipient of the Raja Rao Award in 2000, for his outstanding contribution to literature of the South Asian diaspora.
As a writer he is known best for his novels and short stories. His plays have been performed and have been well-received. A new volume of his poems is expected to be published soon. Maniam’s works have been taught in Malaysian and many countries abroad. His novel, The Return was taught in the Literature in English component for Form 5 students and his short stories for the principal level Literature in English paper for Form 6.
The celebratory event brought together academics, writers and actors to read and perform his works. It began with a reading by Malaysian playwright Leow Puay Tin who read an extract from Maniam’s first novel, The Return. There were readings of extracts from his novels and short stories by Professor Ganakumaran Subramaniam from the School of Education, UNM and Dr Shanthini Pillai, UKM. Malaysian poets Bernice Chauly, Shivani Sivagurunathan and Sheena Baharuddin, all from the School of English, UNM, read poems from KS Maniam Selected Works.
One of the highlights of the event was Professor Malachi Edwin Vethamani, from the School of English, UNM, in conversation with KS Maniam. Maniam shared his thoughts on his writing and his experience as a writer who dealt with issues very pertinent to Malaysia but also had a universal dimension. Maniam highlighted that his use of myths has enabled him to touch on issues that could have been deemed as sensitive and difficult to write about.
There were messages from Malaysian-born Shirley Lim and Preeta Samarasan who are currently residing abroad. The message from Malaysian poet Muhammad Haji Salleh who reminisced about their teacher training days in England and their long friendship was read on his behalf.
Malaysian poet Wong Phui Nam was present to give his tribute to KS Maniam. Wong Phui Nam said this of KS Maniam, “Read him. Read him with attention, with humility and obedience in that you open yourself to his words doing their work on you. You may agree or not agree with what he says but let him enlarge you, your individual self. Let his awareness be your awareness for a little hour. You will be the richer for it.”
There were two short performances from KS Maniam’s plays. The first was by Dr S Subramony who used the uduku drum during his performance from The Cord. The finale of the event was a performance reading by Malaysian actor and educationist Anne James from Maniam’s play ‘The Sandpit: Womensis’ which received a resounding applause.
The event drew to a close with all present rising to give a round of applause to KS Maniam for his invaluable contribution to Malaysian Literature in English. Professor Vethamani described the event as very timely for a Malaysian who is deserving of all the accolades that have been bestowed upon him.
Posted on 18th March 2019