Wednesday, 23 February 2011

Interlok: Chinese sell their daughters «

Interlok: Chinese sell their daughters

Page 160, scanned excerpt from ‘Interlok’.

If you thought ‘pariah’ was the worst insult there is in the novel ‘Interlok’, you’re mistaken.

It is filled with every conceivable racial stereotype of Indians and Chinese that you can think of, applied hodge-podge but in over-abundance to the main characters.

Below are scans from the book. We’re using the original, ISBN 983-62-5578-8. There is a new abridged version tagged ‘Edisi Murid’, edited for students however.

Pages 119-120: Kim Lock, the father of the Chinese main character Cing Huat, is depicted by the novelist Abdullah Hussain as someone quite prepared to sell a daughter.

Page 151: Kim Lock is tempted by the bad guy Paman Kok Leng to sell Cing Huat. Because Cing Huat is a boy, the father has qualms. However, he would consider the proposition if the child was a girl.

Pages 232-233:

‘Gua menyesal gua dapat dua [anak] lelaki saja. Kalau ada orang mau tukar anak lelakinya dengan Poh Eng dan Poh Kheng gua mau sekarang ini.’

Cing Huat, now a father himself, is portrayed by Abdullah as someone who is in turn prepared to trade his daughters (for boys) without second thought.

This novel is full of negative racial stereotypes and BTN-like slurs. Remember Nasir Safar (the prime minister’s aide) who resigned after the comment (below) attributed to him:

‘Indians came to Malaysia as beggars and Chinese especially the women came to sell their bodies’

‘Interlok’ is filled with the same characterizations of Chinese — prostitutes, womanisers, gamblers, cheats, scumbags, opium addicts, and more. Although the Chinese have no ‘pariah’ in their language, Abdullah Hussain portrays the ones who came here as debased creatures and from the dregs of society.

So you must be wondering why it is only the Indian NGOs and political parties that have raised complaints and nothing is heard from the Chinese even when they have been similarly subjected to the implied ‘pariah’ slurs?

CLICK, ‘Interlok: Chinese immigrants came here to carry shit buckets’


Watch this space. Hartal is running an Interlok Week of excerpts.

Our series kicked-off yesterday with why we think the book is part of a hidden agenda to promote Biro Tata Negara-like (BTN) objectives.


  1. my cousin's mother was bought by my grandparents from penang for RM200 in 1949.real life example!
    and she and her 6 children are educated and good muslims today.

    so why are you people upset abour it?

  2. Dear anonymous,
    Strictly speaking- in the proper literary/intellectual context, there is nothing "wrong" with the book. It is only as racist as Mark Twain was when he used the term "nigger" in his books.
    Anyway, many of the norms mentioned were acceptable back then, within the specific communities.

    Bottomline is- it is a piece of literature, alathough crappy one for a "consolation award winner". Books like "Ranjau Sepanjang Jalan" are more to my taste ....

    However, to say that it is factually correct on the historical/geographical aspect is to push it a little too far ....
    It is a book that is to be read within context by a mature reader- or at least with good guidance.

    "so why are you people upset about it?", you ask- valid question ....
    The point is this- Just like many who do not see it beyond a piece of literature, you ask the wrong question, and hence you get the wrong answer.

    To quote Malaysiakini:
    "the question is - are 17-year-old students able to discern the main theme of the book or they only see the imperfections and shortcomings of
    Malaysia's various races?"
    -Interlok: Racist diatribe or honest story-telling?

    Read my earlier post "When Pariahs Interlok ...." (jan 28) if you still don't understand the implications of it all on young impressionable minds ....


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