Saturday 1 September 2012

A basket of flowers and the naughty Burgess

Today I send a basket of flowers to someone. It's his birthday.

Cost me quite a bit of money, but I feel that the guy deserves it. Too bad he is married....hahaha, just kidding, I love my Chinaman la :-)

Ok, better not stretch my luck with that nonsense.

Actually, what I really want to write here is about this book I bought at the airport bookstore last night....I was waiting for someone there.

It's the classic The Long Day Wanes - A Malayan Trilogy by Anthony Burgess 

It was Burgess' first novel. I just felt like reading that book again since yesterday was Merdeka Day.

I first read the book when I was in school. I enjoyed it but remember being quite annoyed with Burgess for his not so flattering portrayals of the Malays. But, then again, I guess, he was just being honest about how he, as a British colonial serviceman at that time see things in this country just before and after Merdeka.

Here is a quite good review of the book -

In case you all are too lazy to read the book, here are some words from Burgess which may interest us Malaysians. I took this from wikiquotes. I think the guys, particularly, would like to read this due to the elements of sexual education...just for fun, ok?

  • As we entered a zone of heat more furious than anything I had known in Gibraltar, I felt I was approaching a world I could live in. I sweated and was happy to sweat. Where there ain’t no ten commandments and a man can raise a thirst. That summed it up. My repressive Catholic heritage was a very small and eccentric item in the inventory of the world’s religions. I would sweat and drink gin pahits and taste the varied sexual resources of the East.
  • I wandered Singapore and was enchanted. I picked up a Chinese prostitute on Bugis Street. We went to a filthy hôtel de passe full of the noise of hawking and spitting, termed by the cynical the call of the East. I entered her and entered the territory.
  • Colonial functionaries had to learn the major language of their territory at a formidable level. A kitchen jargon, good enough for wives, with bad grammar and a master-race pronunciation, was usually preferred by the natives, who did not believe it was possible for a foreigner with a white skin to learn their tongue. Colonial civil servants had to disconcert these natives with a linguistic mastery, including a control of many registers, equal to, or greater than, their own.
  • The demands of Islamic wives for frequent sexual congress did not indicate true sensual appetite: they were a test of the fidelity of their husbands. A Malay female body, musky, shapely, golden-brown, was always a delight....They were seductive as few women are....
    My experience with Chinese girls was mostly, alas, commercial. Prostitutes, or dance-hall girls, knew all the postures, were thin, lithe, sinuous, but disappointingly uninvolved in the act....
  • The few Thailand women I met in northern Malaya called the sexual act kedunkading, with a resonant stress on the last syllable, enjoyed congress as a laughing game and experienced quick and happy orgasms with little help from the male. It was Indian women who, as one would expect from the serious Sanskrit amatory manuals, disclosed most knowledge of the techniques of inducing transport, for themselves and for their partners...
  • Not far from Kuala Kangsar, on the road to the tin-town of Ipoh, was the village called Sungai Siput (meaning Snail River), reputed to be the headquarters of the Chinese communist terrorists. These terrorists were certainly more active in the state of Perak than in, say, the maritime province of Kelantan, because of the great number of rubber estates there abutting on the jungle. They would come out of the jungle, steal supplies, terrorise the Chinese and Indian workers, and garotte or shoot the white planters. All this in the name of human freedom. Their arms were mostly left over from the time when they were fighting the Japanese. Perak was full of troops of the Malay Regiment, which had its quota of British conscripts, and questing planes and helicopters hummed over the jungle. The atmosphere was warlike. Car trips to Ipoh could be dangerous. The mems in their flowery dresses went to do their shopping in armoured vehicles. Planters laid their heavy service revolvers in the beer-slop of the Idris Club. This was named for a former sultan of Perak, Idris being the Koranic equivalent of Enoch. The sultan who reigned during the time of the Emergency was Yusof.
  • Yusof was also the name of the cook boy who came to work for us. He was homosexual but far from effeminate. He had been in and out of the hands of the police for various small thefts, and police medical examinations disclosed a zakar or hak or pesawat or jantan or kalam or 'urat or butoh or ayok-ayutan and a pair of buah pelir or buah peler or kelepir or bodek or telor (there is no end to the number of Malay terms for the genitals) bigger than any in Kuala Kangsar. He could shift a piano single-handed. He dyed his hair with henna and muscularly minced. The advances he made to me were politely repelled, but he demanded a kind of earnest of an intimate relationship between us - a studio wedding photograph of the two of us, me in Palm Beach suit and songkok or Malay velvet cap, him in bridal dress adorned with frangipani. When I would not yield to this he exacted various acts of revenge - thefts of money and of underpants, finally the lacing of my gin with an aphrodisiac bought in the market. The aphrodisiac proved to be an emetic. He had picked up cooking in the kitchen of the Malay Regiment officers' mess, and he served us nauseating dishes with cold sculpted potatoes, parodies of some dream of the haute cuisine anglaise. Lynne taught him simpler recipes - stew of kambing (goat or mutton : one could never be sure) and even lobscouse, which was eventually adopted in the town as a dish believed to be native Malay. He would ruin these with fistfuls of carraway seeds. Eventually we lived on his curries, which, being Malay, were mild but not bad. If he stole from me, he made up for this by stealing from the store cupboards of the preparatory school mess - tinned peaches and polished rice. When he set the table he would place with the salt cellar and the Worcester sauce a tin of furniture polish. He could not read.
  • When he was given money for marketing he would spend some of it on a small animal - an ailing mouse-deer or pelandok, a twittering yellow bird in a bamboo cage. He adored Lalage but Lalage mistrusted his big brown feet. Lalage became the nucleus of a whole domestic zoo. Yusof brought in, with the help of a friend, a huge turtle that slept in the bath at night but, during the day, clanked around the house, knocking its shell against the wall. We were also given a musang or polecat which stank to heaven and ate two katis of bananas every day. The polecat was named Farouche and the turtle Bucephalus. Two rhesus monkeys, male and female, were also imported, but these swung on the ceiling fans and were destructive. All over the walls cheeped chichaks or house lizards, hunting or copulating loudly. Black scorpions clung to the bedroom walls and greeted one on waking with twitching tails an inch or so over one's head.
  • Our amah or cleaning and laundering girl was named Mas, which means gold. She was very small, less than five feet, and of mixed origin - Sumatran, Siamese, a touch of China. She spoke a little English - "Yusof a bit cracked, tuan," she would say, rightly - but was fluent in all the tongues of the peninsula. Her father called himself Mr. Raja and was reputed to have committed incest with her - sumbang, a terrible crime - but was immune from any criminal charge because the Sultan owed him money. He looked wholly Tamil. Mas had been married at the age of twelve. This was unusually young, but the occupying Japanese had had the delicacy not to send married women to their brothels. Mas's one son, born when she was thirteen, was a burly policeman who looked ten years older than his mother.
  • I gained the impression from Mas, and from other Malays, real or pseudo, that the Japanese occupation had been easy on the sons of the soil but very tough on the Chinese. This, naturally, pleased the sons of the soil, who had been allowed to turn to Mecca in the west at sunrise on condition that they turned to the east first and who, apart from the brothelisation of the unmarried girls, had been treated with reasonable courtesy. Yusof Tajuddin, one of my colleagues at the Malay College, had learned Japanese so well that he won an elocution contest open to native Nipponese as well as to the occupied. The learning of Japanese did nobody anything but good, since the Japanese were going to take over the East, if not the world, commercially when their more aggressive imperialism failed. Yusof Tajuddin had rather liked the Japanese, a clean and logical people. The Japanese had been impressed with the colonial system they took over. To the Malays the return of the British had not meant liberation from an oppressive regime but the mere replacement of a set of yellow foreigners by white ones. It was the Chinese, aggressive in business, murderous in the jungle, who were the real enemy.
  • Yusof Tajuddin may have liked the Japanese, and Mas have tolerated them, but both shuddered at memories of what King's Pavilion had been during the occupation. "This not good place, mem," Mas used to say. Yusof Tajuddin, in his impeccable RP English, was more explicit. King's Pavilion had been used as a centre of torture and interrogation. Dried blood, irremovable with any amount of Vim, stained the floor of the main bathroom, through whose open channels much blood had flowed. Yusof Tajuddin explained the peculiar chill of the bathroom, otherwise inexplicable in a house with few fans on which the sun beat, in psychic terms : the frozen hands of death clutched it still and would clutch it for ever. A Scottish engineer of intense scepticism entered the bathroom on our invitation and came out shuddering. In the raintrees and banyans at sunset, Yusof the cook alleged, the voices of the tortured and executed could be heard complaining. Lynne and I could not hear these voices, but we knew Yusof to be superstitious in the manner of his race. He found hantu-hantu (or hantu 2) everywhere. I do not know the etymology of the word, which means ghost, but have often wondered whether there is some ancient connection, through Sanskrit, with haunt. For Yusof everything was haunted. His middle finger, or jari hantu, was haunted and must be careful about what it touched. He had seen a hantu bangkit, a sheeted ghost risen from the grave that, prevented from walking by its winding sheet, had rolled towards Yusof with evil intent. He had seen the hantu belian or tiger ghost. There was a kitchen ghost, disguised as a mat, that sometimes reared itself at him and made him smash the crockery. There were gnomes in the soil, hantu tanah, and the owl, or burong hantu, was a literal ghost-bird that stared at him and made him scream in his sleep. He knew all the hantu-hantu or hantu 2. The voices in the banyans were nothing compared with the visible ghosts with trailing entrails or the spectral huntsman (hantu pemburu), but they were there. We had better believe it.
  • There were good ghostly reasons for not wishing to stay in King's Pavilion, but the real causes for our dissatisfaction with the place were more mundane. It was beautiful enough, an ample structure of the Victorian age, and the view from its verandahs was sumptuous. It looked down on great trees and gardens tended by thin Tamils drunk on todi or palm wine ; beyond was the confluence of rivers ; beyond again the jungle and the mountains. But the gorgeousness of the vista was inadequate payment for the responsibility imposed on us. We inhabited what was in effect a huge flat cut off, but not cut off enough, from the classrooms and dormitories of the preparatory school. At the beginning of the school year weeping Malay boys would arrive with their mothers and fathers, who would stay a night with them and try to stay more, and prepare to be turned into sophisticated collegians. They knew no English, and this had to be taught to them in a two-year course by a Mr. Mahalingam and a Mrs. Vivekananda. They were taught weird vowels and doubtful accentuations. Mrs. Vivekananda made them sing "Old Blick Jooooh" and Mr. Mahalingam did not correct them when they turned bullock cart into bulokar. When lessons were over they made much noise and pissed from their balcony into the inner court, visible while Lynne and I ate lunch. If I railed at them they ran away. If I entered their screaming dormitory they would drag out their prayer mats and howl towards Mecca, knowing that their religious devotions rendered them untouchable by the infidel. They called me Puteh, or white, and also Mat Salleh, or Holy Joe. The other teachers of the Malay College could go to quiet houses on Bukit Chandan, meaning Sandalwood Hill, when their work was over. Lynne and I had to cope with noise and responsibility.
  • It was literally a responsibility for life and death. The garden was full of snakes, of which Malaya has a large variety, and a king cobra with a growing family was much around King's Pavilion during my tenure. Scorpions would get into the boys' shoes or beds and sting them bitterly. Hygiene was a problem, for the water supply was erratic and sometimes totally failed. Because of some fault in the meter, the Water Department recorded an excessive use of water in a dry time when, in fact, there was no water at all. My complaints and counter-complaints were rebuffed. I groaned in my stomach. I had the reputation of being bloody-minded : it was the army all over again. Moreover, a linguistic burden was being imposed upon me which I could not, in my first few months, easily sustain. I had to harangue these young boys in good idiomatic Malay and, though I was learning the language fast, I was not able to learn it fast enough.
  • There was always an amateurishness in colonial administration, and even in technical specialisation, which was deemed desirable by the British, who have never trusted professionalism. Sir Frank Swettenham, one of the founder Malayan administrators, laid down succinctly the qualities desirable in a new recruit to the service - good at games, not so good at studies, unmarried and amoral enough to employ a sleeping dictionary, not too matey otherwise with the natives, clubbable. He might have added something about artistic taste, or lack of it, but that, like a fear of intellectualism, is probably implied in the first two items. If I had hoped to find intellectual companionship among my white colleagues it was because I expected a transferral of the grammar school atmosphere to a college celebrating fifty years of academic glory. But there was little glory, except on the rugger and hockey fields. Jimmy Howell announced with satisfaction at a staff meeting the installation of a hundred stout locks for the library bookcases. "One for each book," I unwisely said. The extra-curricular lives of the teachers reflected the lack of academic ambition in the school itself. They had their long-playing record-players and their shelves of book club novels, golf clubs in the hallway and stengahs on the tray. They took trips to Ipoh to shop at Whiteways and take a bit of decent makan in the Ipoh Club (ikan tinggeri belle meuniere). They had their decent little cars.
  • Lynne and I had never learned to drive, an aspect of our long poverty, and I was not sure that I wanted a car. Few of my non-expatriate colleagues had them, and to whizz around the little royal town in a Ford or Austin was to emphasise the gulf between the privileged whites and the poor blacks, browns and yellows. Not that the coloured were necessarily without cars : there were rich Chinese and a Sultan with a whole polished fleet of Buicks and Daimlers. But the Malays trudged on big brown bare feet or took trishaws. I walked and soaked my shirt in the damnable humidity : this, and my growing mastery of the Malay language, placed me too close to the natives for the comfort of my colleagues. I also carried on a quiet love affair with one of the natives, a girl named Rahimah who worked as a waitress in a Chinese coffee shop. She was very small and very pretty and she was a divorcée. Muslim divorce was too easy, and there were far too many of these cast-off girls about. I was deeply sorry for Rahimah, who had a small wage, scant tips, and a small son named Mat to look after (Mat being the Malay short form of Mohamed). I gave her what money I could, and we made love in her tiny cell that smelt of curry and Himalayan Bouquet while Mat was at the junior Koran school.
  • I had better say a little now about love-making in the East. With Malays there were certain restrictions on the amatory forms, laid down by Islam, so that only the posture of Venus observed was officially permitted. Islamic women were supposed to be passive houris. The demands of Islamic wives for frequent sexual congress did not indicate true sensual appetite : they were a test of the fidelity of their husbands. A Malay female body, musky, shapely, golden-brown, was always a delight. Malay women rarely ran to fat, which was reserved to the wives of the Chinese towkays and was an index of prosperity. Malay women kept their figures after childbirth through a kind of ritual roasting over an open fire, tightly wrapped in greased winding-sheets. They walked proudly in sarongs and bajus (little shaped coats), their glossy hair permanently waved, their heels high. They were seductive as few white women are. Lying with Rahimah I regretted my own whiteness : a white skin was an eccentricity and looked like a disease. Simple though Malay sex was, it had an abundant vocabulary. To copulate was jamah or berjima or juma'at or bersatu (literally to become one), or sa-tuboh, asmara, betanchok (this term was peculiar to Perak), ayut, ayok and much much more. There was even a special term for sexual congress after the forty-day birth taboo - pechah kepala barut - and there were two for the boy's initiation after circumcision - menyepoh tua, with someone older, menyepoh muda, with someone younger. The orgasm was dignified with an Arabic loanword, shahuat, or colloquially called rumah sudah ratip - literally, "the structure has gone into an ecstatic trance", ratip or ratib being properly the term for the transport produced by the constant repetition of the holy name Allah. Where the Western term for experiencing orgasm is, in whatever language, "to come", the Malay mind, using keluar, thinks of going out, leaving the body, floating on air.
  • My experience with Chinese girls was mostly, alas, commercial. Prostitutes, or dance-hall girls, knew all the postures, were thin, live, lithe, sinuous, but disappointingly uninvolved in the act. Kuala Kangsar, like other Eastern towns, was full of Chinese women who went around in sexual sororities, aware, in their age-old wisdom, that only a woman can give a woman satisfaction, and that multiple congress is more ecstatic than dual. In one Malayan school I knew, the sole Chinese woman teacher seduced the white teaching wives, broke up all their marriages, and induced a male and a female suicide. Chinese men, so Chinese women seemed to believe, were not useful in bed. They deemed it sufficient to have a long-lasting erection, and there were Chinese medicines around, usually with a high lead content, which ruined the prostate but contrived a hard and unproductive rod. I knew a Chinese businessman of eighty in Kuala Kangsar who had married a wife of eighteen, a sign of prosperity unmatched by marital prowess until he filled his system with lead. He died smiling on an erection.
  • The few Thailand women I met in northern Malaya called the sexual act kedunkading, with a resonant stress on the last syllable, enjoyed congress as a laughing game and experienced quick and happy orgasms with little help from the male. It was the Indian women who, as one would expect from the serious Sanskrit amatory manuals, disclosed most knowledge of the techniques of inducing transport, for themselves and for their partners, of renewing desire more times than the frame seemed capable of supporting, of relating enjoyment to strenuous athletics, and leaving the male body a worn-out rag tenuously clinging to a spiritualised sensorium open-eyed in heaven. I had sexual encounters with Tamil women blacker than Africans, including a girl who could not have been older than twelve, but none with Bengalis or Punjabis. Whatever her race, the Eastern partner's allure was always augmented by the ambience of spice from the spice-shops, the rankness of the drains, the intense heat of the day, the miracle of transitory coolness at sundown, with the coppersmith birds hammering away at tree-trunks and the fever-bird emitting its segment of a scale - sometimes three notes, sometimes four. Sex in the West is too cold, too unaromatic. It is only fair to say that Orientals, especially, for some reason, Sikhs, have found ecstasies in Bayswater unprocurable in the lands of spice.
  • I wrote a novel some years ago which presents a whole lifetime of homosexuality and, in American bookshops, found its way to the shelf specialising in "gay" literature. For all that, I have never had homosexual proclivities, and I do not well understand what causes the inversion, which goes against biology. There seemed, in my time in Malaya, very few British expatriates drawn to brown male bodies. Islam does not approve of sodomy, despite its prevalence in the desert and in the lands of the Moghrab, and my cook Yusof seemed to be a rare and notorious exception to the sexual current of Kuala Kangsar. He was sometimes called benignly a limau nipis, or thin-skinned lime, which is one of the few terms the Malays have for catamite, or a member of the kaum nabi Lot, the tribe of the prophet Lot, which is a libel on the one straight man of the Cities of the Plain, but his disposition was merely mused upon as an interesting deviation. In the dormitories of the Malay College there was little amatory thumping around. I was surrounded in the Federation by a vigorous fleshly normality. Only the Sikhs, feeling themselves to be an exclusive warlike brotherhood, grunted against each other with turbans awry and beards wagging. The land pullulated with brown and yellow children tumbling into the monsoon drains. There was no danger of its going dry through unwillingness to breed.
  • There was enough commercial sex around in the towns of Malaya, but there was a certain discretion of display. The secondary exploitation of it, in stage shows or blatant underwear advertisements, was mostly abhorrent to the Eastern mind, though there was a famous Chinese striptease performer named Rose Chan who drew crowds of towkays panting under their binoculars. It was the white woman who was expected to be shameless and provocative. Marilyn Monroe and Jane Russell were to be seen in Cinemascope, and there was a full-page advertisement for The Barefoot Contessa in the Straits Times presenting Ava Gardner as "the most beautiful animal in the world". Some of my students pinned this page to the wall above their beds. The crinolined or embustled mems of the old days had been untouchable, but things were changing in the new age of democracy and equality. All Kuala Kangsar was on fire when a French film called Ah! Les Belles Bacchantes was shown. In it French women exhibited pert little bosoms and men of all races united in groans of lust. The Frenchwoman, or perempuan Paranchis, stood for lasciviousness, and the town of Kota Bharu on the East Coast was known, pathetically, as the Paris of the East because of the sexual licence that was believed to prevail there. There was a Frenchwoman in Kuala Kangsar, but she was a very austere doctor of medicine in a white coat. There was only one woman who, not behaving like the traditional English mem in the East and possessing the blonde beauty of a film star, was taken to be erotic in the French manner, and that was my wife.
  • Time for a Tiger was sometimes compared unfavourably with the Eastern stories of Somerset Maugham, who was considered, and still is, the true fictional expert on Malaya. The fact is that Maugham knew little of the country outside the very bourgeois lives of the planters and the administrators. He certainly knew none of the languages. Nor did Joseph Conrad. When I stated, as a matter of plain fact, that I knew more Malay than Conrad, I was accused of conceit....
  • Greene made it clear to me that he had achieved much and had reached a plateau where he could afford to take leisurely breath. He had not written the definitive Malayan novel which should match the definitive Vietnamese one entitled The Quiet American, and he did not think that I would write it either....


  1. Bigcat, thats an interesting book. Anyway, what Burgess wrote about the sexual shennigans with the women of different races is true.

    I have had my fair share of sowing my wild oats and I must tell you Malay girls are bred for bonking. Sheer extasy and they dont cause much expect be nice to them, a treat here and there and every session becomes a sheer bliss.

    1. This one is also true,

      "Chinese men, so Chinese women seemed to believe, were not useful in bed. They deemed it sufficient to have a long-lasting erection, and there were Chinese medicines around, usually with a high lead content, which ruined the prostate but contrived a hard and unproductive rod. I knew a Chinese businessman of eighty in Kuala Kangsar who had married a wife of eighteen, a sign of prosperity unmatched by marital prowess until he filled his system with lead. He died smiling on an erection."

  2. Did that guy just say he had sexual relations with a girl not older than twelve?
    These bloody horny colonialists...
    Any more books recommended?I read some Richard Winstedt a long time ago.

    1. Hey! There are guys who had sex with nine year olds!

      As they say an erect penis has no concience.

  3. Burgess and his wife were serious alcoholics. He was teaching in Brunei and his antics are legendary-passing out in front of the class,his wife going shopping in the morning in a trishaw and filling it with gin.She died of cirhossis of the liver.
    His autobiography Little Wilson Big God makes for an interesting read.