Hikayat Nakhoda Muda


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The story of the Young Sea-Captain exist in various earlier versions but this is an edition from a manuscript written in 1830s. The story is about a princess who got tired of waiting and she went out and saved her stupid brother’s life while disguising herself as a man and unfortunately for her, a prince fall in love with her and in severe emotional confusion over his feeling to a girl who dressed like a boy and everyone was convinced that she’s a boy and he insisted that she’s not. So, he and his father made up things to test her in front of everyone that she’s a man… including peeing in front of everyone, gambling, horse-riding, dancing and almost sleeping together. Luckily, she have a magic bird who spy on the emperor and the prince and the princess churn out clever ways to outwit these two scheming people who were bent on trying to humiliate her in every way possible.

This hikayat was full of feels and weird sex jokes and occasional groping. I thought these aristocratic literature would be dry and proper considering it was a favorite in the old Malay courts and the cover was bland even with those gold lettering. It was surprisingly a very well-constructed romance. A girl meet a guy. The guy fall in love and pursue the girl and the girl tried so hard to push him away but then that night together they spent telling stories instead of sleeping which reminisced 1001 Nights and then that “I’m gonna leave you now and I don’t want you to chase me” scene. Honestly, Prince Bikrama was an asshole and then he became this simpering puddle of depression (he actually fainted when she ran away) but he redeemed himself when he won her hand in a competition and fought a war with other princes over for his love.

In fact, I do think the whole book was better than most Malay romance we had now. Its like Fantaghiro except the girl uses more wit than Fantaghiro do and her reason to disguise herself as a boy to save her brother was more solid and there’s a lot of feminine empowerment qualities from this captain princess alone. Which I think it was grand.

Sadly, despite some era of Malay literature appreciation during British Malaya days, there weren’t any English translation for this hikayat. Of all fairytales, you’d expect this kind of feminist story of a clever Malay princess who save the day from men’s idiocy (because really, every major conflict in this book was cooked up by these incompetent feudalistic men) would remain famous for centuries.

Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk

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I’ve never read the book before but I’ve read enough plagiarized version of this book that nearly sour up this book. I’ve seen the movie a long time ago but thankfully I’m able to glean a new perspective without being distracted by spoilers. I also read the book along with the audiobook narrated by Jim Colby who did marvelous narrating the POV character. Because of the style of the writing which sometimes switch between first and second point of view, its harder to read this book as a passive reader and its a verbal book which demand a certain degree of attentiveness to stomach the medium level stream of consciousness within the narrative. Thankfully, the amount of clarity within it made the book tolerable for someone who dislike the literary technique.

“Fight Club” is in every way the definition of anti-Chic Lit which largely addresses the issues of modern manhood and its conflict in the world “raised by women”. In Palahniuk-verse, the men in Fight Club was emasculate by the ennui of modern times where there’s the lack of real man in the world envisioned by Tyler Durden, the fairy godfather who became the saviour of manhood with his Fight Club franchise. The narrator himself act as an observer and the primary case who developed by Tyler’s radical way to reassert the basic violent animalistic instinct within each and every men around them. He became a perfect legendary figure of manhood in which every character want to be. Considering Palahniuk is the major influencer of local indie scene, no wonder being a jerk was a thing. Everyone want to be Tyler Durden but Tyler Durden doesn’t want to be you.

Fight Club was controversial in some ways. It thrive on juvenile vandalism, physical violence, absence of emotional attachment except the bond of brotherhood gained from inflicting pain to another. In a way, Fight Club was emotionally sterile as the narrator himself. It never cease to amaze me how the idea of Tyler Durden being used to combat the modern inherited restriction imposed on these generation of men raised by tv and the idea of him combatting the social contract by giving active unsubtle social commentary on the rich while at the same time, Tyler manipulated these men into drones and drove his people to accomplish Tyler’s own insane purpose to create chaos. Which was contradictory since he’s doing the same thing his capitalist/consumerism ‘enemies’ doing to the general population. He inspire fear as much as admiration but his solution was the idea of fascism which is just as bad as what he was trying to fight against.

If the overwrought testeronism doesn’t alert you on this, it definitely didn’t thrive on the idea of feminism either. Since the story concentrated on the idea that masculinity was being deeply endangered that an ounce of realistic feminine characteristic was being caricatured needless in the story by the idea of Marla Singer. Marla the deeply neurotic problematic woman and the love interest who was broken, ignored and lusted by both of these two male characters. I’m far more convinced that Helena Bonham Carter manage to create the character image to her interpretation that it took a lot harder to criticize her character without thinking of her marvelous acting. But fact is, she’s a woman who clearly is problematic and anti-woman who decided to be inside an emotionally abusive relationship throughout the book. However, for all her idiosyncrasies, she doesn’t have any function beside being an objectified character and as the defining point where the narrator realize something gone wrong with him. She remain an elusive figure until the end of the book with no history and no life outside her unstable characterizations. Since the story drive on the idea of an average working men mostly in service industry who became somebody inside their little club, the lack of average woman being something else became too apparent. As if it doesn’t help with the whole unsubtle caricaturization with the beauty industry and plastic surgery and stuff. All of it fit in with the social commentary on the wealthy but surprisingly, a humanized woman or even children was absent in this book (beside the pornographic frame inside a family theater). Was that necessary to be in this book? Considering normalcy was optional in Fight Club but it doesn’t help making the story believable either. Unfortunately, because of this book, a lot of copycats does end up largely focusing too much on the misogynistic interpretation of this book which doesn’t help in reinforcing the idea. Curiously, I don’t think a lot of people pick up the homoerotic subtext from the Fight Club brotherhood.

There are better literature that exist before and after the publication of this book that deal with social commentary on the topics effectively. What Fight Club did well was the use of some literary devices in the story and it is enjoyable while reading until the moment where you reanalyse the situation again which was far-fetched in every way. The audiobook definitely improve the reading experience but on its own, it can be tiresome and mentally tiring with the applied stream of consciousness and constant repetitiveness and narrator’s slowness with the obvious things that was happening right into the face. I’m certain that the story does become predictable even if I hadn’t spoil myself with the movie.

On the other hand, since I do have insomnia. I’ve experience really well with what the narrator’s grievance especially with his inability to sleep. In fact, I manage the condition within these few years that I haven’t manage to trigger my insomnia for a couple of years now although I still have a hard time sleeping on time like normal people did. I obviously don’t have the mental condition the narrator have but curiously enough I’m surprised that he wasn’t dying on his feed or have heart attack or stroke with all the physical exertions he had. Then again, its a fairy tale for boys.

The Odyssey: (The Stephen Mitchell Translation) by Homer, Stephen Mitchell

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This is my fifth time reading through another translation of The Odyssey and I even reviewed it in this site. There’s always a reason for this. The original text is in Ancient Greek and in every single english translations everything was different from one another. I had hoped there would be a translation to Malay language from the ancient greek but I probably will wait another century or so for it to happen. I had Stephen Mitchell’s Iliad and I thought about getting through it first to get used of the author’s work but I hadn’t finish any version of Iliad before so that would take some time for me.

What Stephen Mitchell’s Homer differed from the rest of the translations in the market was that its in Modern English. The author took a painful attention to the namings and accents but seemed to overlook the rest of the textual element. Its like that Shakespeare in Modern English series that made sense all those Shakespearean gibberish. If you haven’t read the Odyssey yet, you would find that Mitchell’s translation was very easy to read and fit through most modern adaptations of Ancient Greece or Roman days. Its not a bad thing. It made the text easier to understand, the dialogues and the story. Mitchell does edit out some of the parts that might prove harder to meld along with the story which he rearrange the missing parts in the appendices. In short, this was a nightmare for Homer purist and even I had to compare it to BBC’s Atlantis on the degree of unsubtle appropriation it had for general audience.

So instead of a classic text, I had to change my outlook on the book since it read like a novel more than epic poetry. I could attribute to the formatting failure since I hardly see the poetic form in this lengthy poetry. But I have the paperback version of The Iliad so I know it was just my copy of the ebook. If you adjust your expectation right, Mitchell’s translation can be as entertaining as watching Spartacus or 300. Yes, it was appropriated but so was most modern adaptations on ancient greece. The dialogues was straight forward and easier to understand and more realistic without being too flowery. The graphic violence was marvelous as always especially in modern language. The flow of the story was even out with some textual omissions which would have been beneficial to readers not wanting the prose drowning out the plot and storytelling. But some of the characterizations can be bland and one-dimensional, with the required editing around the texts, I do find this version to be the least complex translation to suit the academical setting. Even the use of vocabulary within this book weren’t as expanded as the rest of the versions of The Odyssey.

But to those who are interested in reading the Greek classics without the burden of it being too difficult to read in leisure, this edition would be perfect for the purpose. However, I felt disorientated in several intervals when I compare back to my previous reads and notice the disparities between the translations. For certainty, there’s a sense of loss in this translation. The characters was like moving around like a play. Certain parts of the dialogues and paragraphs was unexpanded. There were some shifts in between translated parts according to the text and the editing that omit out what would have been unnecessary. I have a hard time referring to the appendices but even without it, it was readable but if you know better about the elements in this book.

One thing for certain, the depth of Xenia was more realistic in this version. The imagery was there and the interactions and motives was translated well through the easy prose without being clouded by elusive words and prose. It made the situation more intense and at times comprehensible without finding through layers of subtleties. The people became more like actual people. The monsters and Gods and Goddesses were humanized at a time. It was an emotional translation at its surface rather than its core and you can empathize with the characters in this story more than average translations of the book which can be rigid and at times Victorian. For all its worth, Mitchell’s The Odyssey was enjoyable and it does what intended to be. Its more appropriately a novel than just a direct translation. Considering, The Odyssey survived for over a millennia, there’s nothing wrong to appropriate the version in a modern enjoyable form as that was what it was in the first place.

This ARC was provided by the publisher via Netgalley in exchange for an honest opinion.