UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English K.

S MANIAM Introduction


K.S. Maniam is a prolific writer with an impressive academic background. Before turning to full-time writing, he led a life of teaching. His creative work, mostly short stories, has been published in different anthologies of Southeast Asian literature. His published fiction includes collections of short stories, such as Haunting the Tiger: Contemporary Stories from Malaysia, and plays, such as The Cord or The Sandpit. K.S Maniam was born in 1942 in a small town named Bedong in Kedah Darul Aman. Subramaniam Krishnan or K.S Maniam is from a Hindu Tamil family and a descendant of a grandmother who had migrated from India to Peninsular Malaysia around 1916. K.S Maniam was raised in a hospital compound because his father worked as a laundryman. K.S Maniam also would accompany his parents in rubber-tapping on a nearby plantation, this made he became familiar with the lifestyle of the Tamil estate workers there. Although only for a year, K.S Maniam attended the Tamil school and then insisted on transferring to the Ibrahim English school at Sungai Petani. This was a substantially to alter the course of his life. After completing his schooling in 1960, K.S Maniam stayed for a few months as pupil-teacher and then left for India where he was briefly study medicine. From India, he went to England to further his study on teacher’s education. In England from 1962 to 1964, he attended the Malayan Teachers College in


2 . residing at Brinsford Lodge. An intense yet courteous person. He retired from an Associate Professorship in the Department of English at University of Malaya in 1997.S Maniam lives with his wife and children in a modest. Then he enrolled in Arts/English degree course at University of Malaya in Kuala Lumpur.S Maniam escaped the desperate of his small town childhood and now he publicly affirms that the English language given him a centre to life. two storeyed house in Subang.S Maniam returned to Malaysia and taught in various rural schools in Kedah until 1970. Through English-medium education. now K. one of suburbs of Kuala Lumpur. he went on to obtain a Master’s degree in English Literature.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English J41757 Wolverhampton. In 1979 he was appointed to a lectureship in English at University of Malaya. K. After completing a BA (Hons). K. After successfully completing his Certification of Education.

The story is written from the point of view of the narrator. The Return. presents an Indian boy’s journey of self-discovery while growing up in Malaya. the author also presents the traditions. give the reader a glimpse of what the community might sound like. The sober descriptions of the Indian community’s lifestyle infuse the novel with a textual richness. with little connection between them. 3 . But the vivid descriptions of the immigrants’ life. The Return.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English The Return J41757 K. was published in 1981. The book is littered with Tamil words. The few lines of incorrect English used to characterize the language of the immigrants. a fact that gives the text a special and unique flavor. especially the children’s dialogues. The world is seen through the eyes of a single person. The novel can be read as a Bildungsroman which deals with the education and the intellectual formation of an unusual young Indian boy who has to go through all the sorrows and triumphs life has to offer. the humor in some of the situations and the lyrical characteristics of the text compensate for these imperfections of structure. At a point the reader might think that The Return is just a collection of short stories about Maniam’s life. Apart from the reconstruction of boyhood. It was reprinted by Skoob Books Ltd in the Skoob Pacifica Series in 1993. arranged in chronological order. way of life and difficulties faces by the community of Indian immigrants.S Maniam’s first novel.

But the readers are occasionally aware that the time of the narrative spans over a long period of more than 20 years. Themes The sense of history is conveyed almost imperceptibly.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English J41757 The author mingles in the narrative themes related to the life and realities of Indian immigrants in a country where. they are looked down upon. The appearance of the cinema. but for him they lack social and economic significance. the radio. at first. The most important of them are: a sense of history. the Emergency. and the social stability that education offers. the movement upwards from one level of schooling to another. from 1940 to 1962. 4 . and the Independence. Some examples are: the addition of new buildings to the school. Most significant of all. the bicycle and the car are some of the changes that will eventually influence the social life of the characters. Ravi. a sense of community. Time and place are not mentioned. such as the Japanese occupation. is the implementation and extension of colonial education. acknowledges the political events that take place in the country. modernization is an inevitable event. As we read the novel we understand that as time passes by. the increase in the number of teachers and students. the main character. and the lack of dates (with very few exceptions) makes the reader understand that the author avoiding this and doesn’t want to invoke historical or political events from the history of colonial Malaya. and a sense of character.

like Gandesh the Indian boy from next door. but gradually.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English J41757 But all these modernizing factors also steps that widen the gap between Ravi himself as part of the poor community of Indian immigrants and Ravi as a member of colonial society. he befriends his English-speaking backgrounds. The sense of community is described throughout the novel. At first they are doomed to live in poor conditions on the rubber plantation. the neighbors’ children. All these are graphically described in the novel. while class and status are demarcated by territorial and social boundaries. from its very beginning until the last line of the final chapter. As soon as Ravi realizes that he can spend his free time reading comics and other books instead of running and playing in the mud. This community is characterized by anger.S Maniam evokes the community in a very realistic and sometimes shocking style. through education and growth of wisdom. As soon as he joins secondary school. conflict and shrewdness. giving the readers an image of how life was in such harsh and unfair conditions. violence. and eventually reject him. the rejection classmates. In the Indian community there are divisions and separation. sense his superiority both at school and at home. is the first sign he gives to the community that he intends to escape the social status to which he has been associated by birth. Ravi’s previous friends. K. The moment Ravi decides to stay on at school. It is a community of immigrants who depend on the system of colonial patronage. who are of different ethnic and social 5 . he finds a way of getting out of it. Ravi is a part of that way of life.

dying disappointed. his father is by far the most influential to Ravi. He is highly influenced by Periathai’s vision of life and tradition. which means “Big Mother”. Although the novel opens with the description of a remarkable woman. The grandmother addressed by the honorific “Periathai”. carrying her baggage and being accompanied by her three sons. speechless and without a farewell. The detached way adopted by the author in presenting the pettiness and misery of the Indian immigrant community is another proof that Ravi doesn’t consider himself to be a part of it. She draws her vitality from Indian cultural wisdom and experience while the link between everything she does and the Indian tradition accompanies her until death. Kannan. the succeeding chapters focus on another figure. Main Characters The Return opens with a description of the arrival of the narrator’s grandmother in Malaya. 6 . Kannan spends the last remaining years of his life in vain. the center of authority in Ravi’s life: his father.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English J41757 becomes reciprocal. capable and hardworking character. Periathai never gets to own the house and the land where she has lived on for many years. Above all the other characters that shape the life and character of the young boy. She is hardworking and resourceful woman who starts a new life with her family in a strange unwelcome land. She has strange appearance. Their shared desire to own land and build on it comes from the fact that their roots are still in the farming community. Kannan is a complex.

In the years preceding his father’s death. and eventually novels. Maniam is a novel that allows the reader the opportunity to be part of a Malaysian experience such as adaptation to the ever-changing modern world. Ravi became detached from Kannan’s and Periathai’s dream of owning land. the loss of family and traditional roots. the dream of the Indian immigrant in Malaysia has disappeared. but also a space to retreat into the world of comics. Ravi. such as the adoption of the colonial language. and decides to pursue more realistic dreams.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English J41757 obsessively trying to gain ownership of the land on which he has lived and built his house. English. Conclusion “The Return” by K. as a representative of the first Malaysian-born generation. For Ravi. that he writes his works in English. It is a language that influences Maniam himself (in fact the main character of the novel) in such a way. In just two generations. the loss of identity. sees his community from a different perspective. the language of his ancestors. He does not like the traditional communal lifestyle. this culture is more rewarding and satisfying compare to the one in which he has lived.S. fairy tales. Education provides for him not only knowledge. the role 7 . It is through the medium of this language that he is finally able to move upwards in his social status. and not Tamil. At the moment of his separation he is actually assimilating another culture through education. Ravi gradually moves apart from his family and culture to live in a world influenced by colonial rule.

The novel made me think of my own life and identity and roots.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English J41757 of education in life. and many more. love ones or the place where we have grown up. all of us have to “return” at a point of our lives to some place that is dear to our heart. it is a “return” that will always stay in our minds. our home. Either it is our native country. 8 . the opposition between authoritarian and democratic societies. In my thought.

_Maniam K. Anne. (1993) Introduction in The Return by K.worldlingo. Wicks.S Maniam (1942-)._S. Retrieved on January 2011 from www.S Maniam.S Maniam (Subramaniam Krishnan) (July 2007). 1993. Retrieved on Febuary 2011 from http://en. K.org/wiki/K. London: Skoob Pacifica K. Maniam. Maniam.my/lamandbp/main. (2007).S.UPM PJJ BPTESL 2010/2011 BBL3206 Malaysian Literature In English References J41757 Brewster.wikipedia.php?Content=articles&ArticleID=1176&IID K.C. Retrieved January 2011 from http://dbp._Maniam 9 .gov. London: Skoob Pacifica. in The Return by K. Peter._S.S Maniam. W. The Literacy Encyclopedia Watson.S.com/ma/enwiki/en/K. (1993) Linguistic Boundaries.

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