Friday, October 24, 2008


The poems and short stories that make a volume in this collection were originally selected for a purpose of introducing the post-colonial literatures which arose throughout colonized countries. According to Mcleod, at the turn of the twentieth century, the British Empire covered a vast area of the earth that included parts of Africa, Asia, Australasia, Canada, the Caribbean an Island (p. 6). Post-colonial literature or some might recognized it as New English literatures, is a new way of writing that reacts to the discourse of colonization which frequently involves writing that deals with issues of de-colonization or the political and cultural independence of people formerly subjugated to colonial rule. In an attempt to formulate “a grammar of Commonwealth Literature” (“Post-colonialism” 51), to use Fernando’s words, the authors explain that post-colonial literatures have evolved through three stages: (i) “[works] produced by ‘representatives of the imperial power,” (ii) “[works] produced ‘under imperial licence’ by ‘natives’ or ‘outcasts’, and “ finally, (iii) the “development of independent literatures” or the “emergence of modern post-colonial literatures” (p.5-6).

Before going further to a serious discussion on nationhood and these selected works, the definition of post-colonial countries and issues of new English literature will be thoroughly be scrutinized. Colonialism is a term that critically refers to the political ideologies which legitimated the modern invasion, occupation and exploitation of inhabited lands by overwhelming outside military powers ( The authority which these colonial countries possess gives them advantage to take charge of the small countries which is still under development and new in governing the land. In fact, they brought along new ways of ruling the States, new culture as well as implying their mother tongue to the native. For years, language of the colonial or we might directly approach it as English, has become a vast usage all over the colonised countries. The literary works in English grew rapidly with the rise of the language in India, Africa, Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia and elsewhere.

Throughout centuries, these particular writers play their roles in order to resist the colonial’s views of the native, lift-up spirits of nationalism and create awareness to the people of the land of who they are as part of the nation. Here, the teams of editor presenting a bunch of stories and poems from post-colonial countries; Malaysia, Singapore, Philippines, Vietnam, India and Africa. Representing the land, these selected writers embrace different perspectives of nationhood in which the depiction can be found throughout their works. Moreover, their works turn to build a new nation with identities after colonisation by re-writing the history and make it into fiction of the present time, re-building the community by injecting awareness and spirit of patriotism, re-building notions of the self and re-designing the English language whilst make it sound locally to the land. The definition of nationhood according to Benedict Anderson is an imagination of building a nation into existence. It is planned by people and shaped based on certain grounds. According Timothy Brennan in his essay, nation refers ‘both to the modern nation-state and to something more ancient and nebulous- the “natio”-a local community, domicile, family, condition of belonging (p. 45).

The writers applied varieties of strategies in order to mark-up certain elements of nationhood such as patriotism, resistance of colonialism, national language, national unity, national heritage and legacy, sacrifice, national heroism and division or marginalisation within nations. As we read and analysed from beginning to end of the writing, we found out these elements implied differently either in the short stories or in the poems. The writers even try out using the new language practically in their writing. Indeed, it’s a big challenge to the writers to write in English about the land and the people whilst they speak their own mother tongue. In spite of these selected countries historical presence, English is still considered an “alien” language. There are some potential disadvantages for a writer who chooses to write in a foreign or transplanted medium. For example, if he is not fully confident in the use of the language, it may thwart his creativity thus his purpose of creating awareness and the issues of nationhood might not be achieved. Moreover if the majority of the people in his land use indigenous language (s) for their active communications, it may hinder his accessibility to their emotions and experiences and so make his task of representing reality somewhat more difficult. There is of course, an added responsibility to the writers to make use of the new language sounded locally which can adapt to the local culture. The term New Literatures in English refers to literature written in the English language including literature from the countries which is the medium of communication are not English. In addition, English literature is a diverse as the varieties and dialects of English spoken around the world (Wikipedia). Thus, when the postcolonial countries are involving in this creative writing, they are not just representing their cultures yet they also highlighting certain issues about their countries such as their national heroes and patriotism.

This anthology entitled The Son of Rizal and Other Postcolonial Literatures, when world becomes one comprises six selected poems and four short stories from post-colonial countries. Each poem and short story from these different parts of the world represents the writer’s views of his land and his people. Indeed, some might be considered as his or her personal indication of his or her true sense of belonging of the land where he or she lives in. The term ‘when world becomes ones is an indication of the compilation of stories and poems around the world in a volume. Just flip through this volume, the readers can get entirely notions of nationhood which best represent the postcolonial countries.

We start the discussion on poems from Malaysia as we; the team of editors are originally truly Malaysian. Ee Tiang Hong in his poem, Patriotism, questioned certain issues of freedom and rights of equality. Being a part of the nation and one of the heterogeneous communities, certain queries might appear in mind as one might not possess equal rights. Yet all these need to be put aside and accept the new order and be grateful of being a part of the nation.
After generation, the question seems to be repeated and the history continuously emerged since we never really take it into consideration.
And surely after all these
The gates of heaven must open,
Unconditional, without question,
No question but that
All men are equal
Under the rain and sun.

Ee’s approaches the readers as well his own community to be remindful of the national unity and identity additionally. The title ‘patriotism’ gives literal meanings to the Malaysians to lift-up the spirit of patriotism; spirit of ‘proud to be Malaysian’.
They demand
That we accept the new order,
Stomach the reversal of our lot,
Hold our tongue, seal our lips,
Be grateful for what we have got
(The fruits of our toil),
They demand....
In addition, Ee depicts the image of dilemma and the feeling of alienation among some Malaysians. The crisis of identity, of place and purpose, hasten in Patriotism are fundamental in that they strike at the very confidence out of which the individual functions (Ee, 1976).
Our neighbour country, Singapore, we present Lee Tzu Pheng with her controversial poem, My Country and My People. According to Wikipedia, Lee is often seen as one of a generation of “nation-building” English writers in Singapore, whose work in the ‘50s-‘70s questioned the identity of the newly independent nation. My Country and My People was banned by the Singapore government due to fears that her reference to her “brown-skinned neighbours” would offend the Malay community of Singapore. She questioned her uncertainty on her identity of being Chinese grew up in China’s mighty shadow, of having Malay as a neighbour and of using English as her medium of communication.
My country and my people
I never understood.
I grew up in China’s mighty shadow,
with my gentle, brown-skinned neighbours;
but I keep diaries in English.
I sought to grow
in humanity’s rich soil,
and started digging on the banks, then saw
life carrying my friends downstream.

Her search for identity breeds humanity and nationality where she founds out her true sense of belonging on her new land. In the beginning of the poem, the persona shows how she feels of being born as a daughter of a better age where she is able to receive proper education and learn about the coloniser whose technically brought in her ancestors to the land. Ode of The War Wife, written by Doan Thi Diem from Vietnam is concerned about national heroism and sacrifices by the soldiers. The persona, being the wife of a soldier is expressing her thoughts and feelings when her husband makes his way to the war. In the first stanza, she portrays the sadness and gloomy of all people when anarchy is in the air. The use of hyperbolic phrase;

Moonlight trembles to the thuds
of Trang-an’s drum

This phrase enlightens the proclamation of war as being so loud and serious. After 300 years of serenity, solders are exclaimed to get into battle. Although they are ready to fight for their country, they still have a heavy heart to leave their family. This is stated in the phrase;
sorrow runs to the frontier
resentment fills the room

Young men in the country leave their job to fight against the enemy; leaving their family, home and everything to sacrifice their life to win the war for the country. Even the grass and water are personifies as doesn’t favor him going to war leaving his family behind. War renders a bleak future. That’s why the persona keeps on repeating how sorrowful and dismal she was when the war started. However, she didn’t stop her husband from going to war because she realizes that fighting for their country is an honourable act as they sacrifice their soul and life for the sake of the nation. Whatever the consequences that will come over, she had to accept and be contented.

Most of the selected literary works that we chose are depictions of the writer true sense of his belonging to the land. One out of these six poems that randomly being chosen based on the issue of nationhood is Poem before Execution by Jose Rizal. He himself is the national hero of the Philippines thus his poem reflects his spirit of bringing his land and nation into one to defeat the colonialist. He wrote this poem before he was being executed to death. Indeed he knows of his leaving, he still confides his people of fighting for their rights and land that they belong. He stated in his poem in the fourth stanza of his dreams when he was a child that he wants his people one day, without worries and fears they can live in peace and happiness.

My dreams when I scarcely a child, a youth,
my dreams when I was young, still in my prime,
were to see you, jewel of the eastern sea,
one day with dark eyes dry, with smooth brow raised,
no frown, no wrinkles, tainted with no crime.

He is ready to sacrifice his life for a better future for his people and his country. His love for his country and people make him realize that he needs to forgo and leave his people a chance of freedom. Together with his soul and spirits, he breeds the sense of nationhood. Jose Rizal in some extent wrote this poem to remind his people of their responsibilities to take good care of their country thus the responsibilities not only for the time being yet it should be continued till the next generation. This poem is indeed a hit marker to their soul; lift-up the spirits of nationalism and the sense of identity towards resistance.

Africa is a poem by David Diop. Regardless of his background where he was brought up in France, his true sense of being an African portrayed in all his literary works. In our point of view perhaps, this poem is a reflection of the poet’s heart of his longing towards his country; Africa. He feels proud to be an African as he amazed of the spirit that shows by his ancestors which struggle in their life. Ancestor here means the previous generation of African. As we know the previous generation of African faces the bitterness in order to gain the liberty. These lines show us the sense of longing towards the mother land and how the persona appreciates their oppression in life.
I have never known you
But your blood flows in my veins
Your beautiful black blood that irrigates the fields
The blood of your sweat
The sweat of your work
The work of your slavery

Another theme that we found in Africa is the hatred towards colonial which we can refer to these lines:

Africa, tell me Africa
Is this your back that is unbent
This back that never breaks under the weight of humiliation
This back trembling with red scars
And saying no to the whip under the midday sun

The persona giving the reality of what his ancestor had gone through so as to gain the freedom. Besides, through this poem, the persona also wants to give awareness toward the new generation of African so that they will not forget about their past history. It is not only to remember the past but it is about to preserve the national liberty that truly belongs to them.

We chose Kamala Das’s poem from India to present the notions of nationhood,
an Introduction. It is a poem about post-colonial women in India who struggling for their self agency and national identity. In the first line of the poem, the persona reflects her knowledge of the political issues in her country even though it may sounds strange for a typical Indian woman to know about politics as well as the world. The persona, or we would like to refer as a woman, knows her roots and identity of being an Indian woman. In fact, the persona does not want to be like any other typical Indian woman as she thinks she deserves to know more than that. Her life belongs to the land. Kamala Das is one of India’s foremost poets. Even though most of her works touch the issues of feminism, yet we still chose her work as there is certain elements of nationhood that we can take into consideration. The assigning of gender roles within a nation has deep implication for the development of that nation’s identity (Susan, 2008). This is what Kamala Das attempt to raise in her poems. Women are established as culture bearers where she preserves traditions of the community as well as the land. In fact, nations are commonly referred to in female terms such as “the motherland”, and physically embodied by such female icons as the Statue of Liberty, Britannia and Marianne (Susan, 2008). Hence, in an Introduction, the persona in the poem concerns the issues of women in a notion of nationhood.

Short story is another way to show the notion of the nationhood among the postcolonial countries. Here, in this anthology there are four short stories from Malaysia, Singapore and Philippines. Each of the short stories has different kind of issues that was being raised regarding to their situation in the country. Therefore, we have chosen these stories which are Arriving by K.S Maniam, The Son of Rizal by Jose Garcia Villa, The Interview by Gopal Bratham and Retired Rebel by Suchen Christine Lim in order to provide the readers the information on how people in postcolonial countries celebrate their sense of nationalism.

Arriving another hit-hearto from Malaysian writer, K.S Maniam, is a story of a character named Krishnan who suddenly become uncertain of his true identity. The called pendatang have been disturbing his soul and mind which then he recalled his ancestral background. Being the minority group in the land named Malaysia together with other races such as Malays and Chinese not such a problem to him yet the word ‘pendatang’ had changed his psychologically minded of searching his true identity.

Maniam is also known to experiment with literary techniques in all three genres of fiction-short stories, plays and novels. His use of dream and flashbacks in many of his works allow for a more complex plot and undoubtedly, challenging read.
(2004, p. 173)

The context of his text is surrounded of an important aspect of the “local culture” which can also be traced in Maniam’s use of realism and naturalism. He often writes about the issues relevant to the migrant Tamil community in Malaysia. In Arriving, Maniam depicted of the struggle of the protagonist, Krishnan, who is the third generation on the migrant Tamil, to find a sense of belonging in the adopted land. To some extend, Krishnan tries to believe that he is a pendatang, but then he realized that the only things and the only country that he knows and belongs to is Malaysia, not India where his ancestors used to be. Indeed, he is from India but his country or to be more meaningful, his motherland, the land which he possessed the life since he was born is truly and only Malaysia.

Krishnan would say, “Yes, I’m always arriving, arriving. I’ll never reach. Reaching is dying. Reaching is not arriving. Arriving at what? I don’t know. Only arriving. Never getting there. Arriving.”
There are two different meaning that can be looked into this statement made by Krishnan. Arriving here in that sense means of he came from a different land or to be exact his ancestors were came from a different land but he has arrived in this adopted land to be Malaysian; a part of the nation and he is belong to this adopted land.

The Son of Rizal is a story from Philippines by Jose Garcia Villa. This story is about a man who meets with Juan Rizal on his way return to his home after viewing the annual Rizal Day parade. This guy has attracted to Juan Rizal as he is willingly to listen to Juan Rizal’s story. Surprisingly, Juan Rizal tells him that he is the son of the national hero of Philippines. Everybody knows that Jose Rizal has no son, but he hesitantly has to believe in Juan Rizal’s story as he seems like pleading him to believe. Their conversation stops when Juan Rizal has reached to his place, Calamba. After a month, this man has an invitation of a friend at Calamba. He wishes to visit Juan Rizal too, there, the secret reveals when his friend tell him the truth. Juan Rizal is not Jose Rizal’s son; his real name is Juan Kola. Children called him Juan Sira which means nutty Juan. He will tell everybody that Jose Rizal was his father as there is a sad story behind it. His father was a very cruel to him: he used to beat him for any or no reason at all. He grew to hate his father as much as he feared him. But when his father died he feels really sad as he used to his father meanness and cruelty. He started thinking of Jose Rizal and forgets everything about his real father. What the most touchable thing about this story is the spirit of the hero that lives with the people in Calamba.

Then the boy began thinking of Rizal. Rizal was born here, you know, and that makes him closer to us than to you who live elsewhere. Rizal to us is a reality, a magnificent, potent reality, but to you he is only a myth, a golden legend. He is to you a star, far away, bright, unreachable. To us he is not unreachable for he is among us. We feel him, breath with him, live with him. Juan Kola lived with him-lives with him.
The sense of patriotism among these people should be in the entire citizen of Philippines. Not only by celebrating Rizal Day Parade, but they have to practice the words of the national hero and having the spirit of him so as to defend the liberty of their motherland.

The interview by Gopal Baratham is a story from Singapore which is relating the experience of interviewing Brigadier Mason, a British army during the world war. The interview started by asking his experience being imprisoned by Japanese army. From the interviewing process, there are many things to discover about life during war that the new generation does not know. On the other hand, the interview with Brigadier Mason will certainly provide nostalgia for the older viewer. The journalist father asked him to interview Brigadier Mason due to certain reason; one of the reasons is to give the clear picture of previous generation face during the war.

‘The trouble with you people,’ he frequently said, ‘is that you did not live
through war.
You haven’t seen enough change and suffering to value solid principles.’

These lines mean that the problems of the present generation is that they did not exactly take a lesson of what have been done by the old generation where they have to face difficulties in order to get independence. They will celebrate the day of independence but did they really understand the meanings of independence and the soul of bring glory to the nation.

Suchen Christine Lim on the other hand is emphasizing national language and resistance against colonialism in her short story titled ‘Retired Rebel’. The main character, Jimmy is a retired corporal insists to never look up to the British even he had worked for them for twelve years. He is proud to admit that he is better than the whites, as can be seen in the very first paragraph;

“I’ve worked for twelve years with the British Army, but I didn’t look up to the British even then. In fact, I looked down on them. I was a rebel, I tell you. Don’t talk pidgin to me, I told the Brits. You want to speak to me, speak proper English, I said.

As Jimmy told his story to Maria, his Philipino maid, he gives many examples of how dumb a white man even in using his own mother tongue. Jimmy had actually received his former education at St Joseph and he did learn English very well. That’s why he can speak properly and hold his head high. However, although Singapore had declared English as their national language, back in the early years after British pulled out of Singapore, there are some Singaporean who didn’t like Jimmy because they thought he is very proud to speak the colonial’s language. They once called him ‘English boot licker’ and ‘English shit’ just because he speaks English very well and his Chinese was not so good. This is, obviously the other evidence of resistance against colonialism in this short story. The folks think that when you speak English properly, you are actually supporting the colonialist. But then Jimmy tried to prove he is still a Chinese Singaporean who loves his root and doesn’t betray his nation. Ever since he had retired, he still being a rebel against the whites.

Finally, the anthology has been prepared so as to emphasize on the issue of nationhood in the postcolonial countries that we have chose. The short stories and poems are not only to be read as interesting pieces of art, but they have to be read as guidance so as to be a good citizen. We have been reading the short stories and make analysis for each genre and we found it is beneficial to educate the new generation of their countries history.