Reading has always serves as my salvation valve. I need that to keep my creative mind works and rejuvenated. Nevertheless, I am quite picky when it comes to the genre. I am mostly driven to the :-
- Horror flicks ( much to the influence of my sister’s collections of Stephen Kings’ ; REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2011/11/30/diabolically-quenching-back-to-black-part-i-the-dark-half-by-stephen-king/ for “The Dark Half” review & https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2011/12/02/diabolically-quenching-back-to-black-part-ii-christine-by-stephen-king-the-rage-of-a-plymouth-fury-58/ for “Christine”;
- Fantasy-mystical (Harry Potter series; the ‘His Dark Material’ trilogies) ;
- Thrillers (“Millenium” trilogy; REFER to https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/2012/10/03/vendetta-for-femina-justice-against-sexual-sadism-the-girl-with-the-dragon-tattoo-by-stieg-larsson/ for “The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo”) ;
and many more! You guys can check my reviews in my blog at the Category : Novels/Books at https://undomiel84.wordpress.com/category/novelsbook/.
It has also been my ritual to at least finishing a book every year BUT last year, I was so occupied with my Master’s Degree programme (well, I am still busy but since now is a hiatus period before entering the 3rd semester, I could breath for a while)! Thus, I failed to do such and the novel “Salina” by A. Samad Said of which I had started reading circa early 2014 was kept put on halt due to hectic life schedule. But every now and then, I would try to squeeze time to read…. AND…. FINALLY; today, as on 12th February 2015, I have managed to finish reading it !!! Yeay!
The novel “Salina.” – English version.
Last year January 2014; I was scouting a novel at my school’s library (SK Serendah) and I found this novel but in English version. I heard a lot about this reputable novel penned by A. Samad Said and quite intrigued by the positive reviews but never had the chance to read it. So, I thought – Why not? At least, I would have an experience of reading a masterpiece hailed by many and I will judge it myself rather than keep hearing hearsay but not afford to vouch the so-called ’eminence’ myself, no? So, I borrowed the novel.
Singapore in 1940s.
This novel “Salina” was published in Malay Language originally in 1961, penned by Malaysian National Laureate, A. Samad Said. Basically, the story revolves around 2 main characters (but I wonder why “Salina” was chosen as the title instead) of which the storyline was mainly about. Nevertheless, the correlation between these 2 characters are that both are sucked into the profession of ‘men-entertaining’ : Salina as a prostitute who sold her body to earn a living whereas Nahidah was forced to become a waitress by her stepmother, Zarina. Both dwell in the slump area of Kampung Kambing and their so-called houses were actually goats-pen.
Japanese occupation in Singapore in 1940s.
Salina was once a fine girl born in a rich family but the tranquility of life was snatched during the occupation of Japan in Singapore. The harsh of life forced the once a respectable young lady to become a prostitute. She also has been living with an abusive man called Abdul Fakar (the protagonist of this novel) who was a womanizer and a drunkard – later we learned that the only reason why Salina patiently weathered the whims and whines of Abdul Fakar was merely the fact that Abdul Fakar’s face was somewhat similar to her dead first love, Muhammad Yusuf.
Prostitutes in Singapore during 1940s. Courtesy of Google Image.
Although as a prostitute, she was looked down by people but Salina proved to be a kind woman in nature. She befriended with an ailing woman named Katijah as well as her still-student youthful son named Hilmy; whom later she regarded as her younger brother. Some reviews speculated that Hilmy was actually the metaphorical symbol of A. Samad Said himself as it was said that this story “Salina” was inspired by a true story witnessed by A. Samad Said when he was in Singapore (but Goodness knows). Salina helped Hilmy and Katijah by giving them money to buy medicines as well as school books.
The titular character “Salina” was forced into prostitution.
Nahidah was a sweet young girl who was in love with Hilmy and vice versa. But she was forced by Zarina, her stepmother to become a waitress. Nahidah was a brilliant young girl and did not recoil easily to the advances made by the lecherous males at the restaurant she was working but the sturdiness was crippled when one night, she was raped by Abdul Fakar. Confused and dazed, she was influenced by a waitress-friend to drink a ‘spiked’ beer (she was led to believe that by drinking beer, she could forget her sorrow of being raped); only to be drunk and was taken advantaged by a client named Encik Salim who has been eyeing her for ages – into a gang-rape. The incident was a final straw for Nahidah and she fled Singapore to Penang; thus, severing the romantic tie with Hilmy who was still unaware the real reason why she left him.
The character Nahidah was raped and gang-raped.
I found it quite interesting that A. Samad Said cleverly infused sexual innuendos into symbolic metaphors – which did not exhibit any ounce of vulgarity but clearly projecting vivid images of the scenes that he was trying to convey to us. It is also heart-breaking to delve into the hardships of the Malay women fell into disgrace during the difficult times after World War 2 and how they strive to survive.
Dealing with sociological taboos as well as men’s hypocrisies; the novel “Salina” is an epitome of feminism in the most unlikely way. A prostitute (Salina) who is looked down upon society for selling her body and yet is always sought-after by the lustful pricks was battling against her own inner demon as well as the opportunist males out there. She was confused between love and reality; and finally realized that it could not prolonged any longer and decided to leave the abusive partner. Besides that, the idea of how a woman who is strong and adamant to keep her dignity hailed high (Nahidah) but eventually crippled by the wrath of sly horny men was also a gentle reminder for women to be careful to thread the life around them.
A. Samad Said, the Malaysian National Laureate who penned “Salina”.
On whole, it was a no wonder why Kris Mas hailed “Salina” as one of Malay finest writings ever. It was not just a sensational fiction but it also served as a mirror of our olden Malay society of those days – the hatred, the jealousy, the opportunists, etc. I would not hesitate to vouch that “Salina” is a written version of Corporate Social Responsibility; CSR (ooopsie! Here comes another Communications element, y’all! Haha!)- hence, I am naming “Salina” as a very good example of Artistic Social Responsibility ; inspired by a modified version of CSR! Haha! I recommend Malaysians especially Malays to read this novel.
The various covers of “Salina” over the decade.
It is a great reflection of our culture and races – and to educate ourselves to become a better human being ; – to not just to be judgmental to a person simply because of his or her state-of-being BUT to fathom/understand WHAT caused him/her to become like that, at first place. On a literature note, it is enthralling to know that before the global-hit masterpiece of “Memoirs Of A Geisha” by Arthur Golden, we have our own Geisha who is ‘Salina’ in our own backyard.