COMMENT | Literature and questions of national importance

“The social sciences carry stories – of people, phenomena, and philosophies that explain our experiences that shape our world, juxtaposed against data and numbers often exalted and celebrated in the webs of sciences. We tell stories that reveal real people and record their lived life experiences.”

— Paul GnanaSelvam, Universiti Tunku Abdul Rahman (Utar)

COMMENT | In an earlier essay, I looked a bit more into literature and society, but with the current Malaysian situation, rife with political and health crises – and looming ecological collapse – the aim of literature to serve as a mirror to society seemed to feel less urgent.

When I worked in publishing, it was possible to make a case that literature could support the local economy through book sales, royalties for its practitioners, and wages for staff.

But in reality: (1) the local literary ecosystem is tiny, and (2) this reduces literature to pure financial values. As Michael Lapointe reflects in The Walrus - “writing itself should be divorced from financial concerns; but my social instinct recognises this as impossible, and finally undesirable”.

Adjunct Professor Philip TN Koh teaches a course on the intersection of law and literature at the University of Malaya.

I had the opportunity to audit his final class of the semester, which coincided with the commencement of the #Lawan protests in downtown Kuala Lumpur.

The significance of the date was not lost on him or his students, who were young lawyers-in-training...

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