International Book Fair, How Times Change…

DURING my student days, the Kuala Lumpur International Book Fair was one festival that l would look forward to.

Being voracious reader that l am, books were and still are the main method for me to learn about things. About other worlds beyond my life and my country…

Hence, when my niece Sarah suggested that we should try to make it to the book fest I was quite keen despite the tiredness and killing headache for the past two days.

I love books so I know Sarah’s enthusiasm because she’s a voracious reader just like me. She is my first daughter that I didn’t give birth to and since she was a toddler I took her and Adam along for all my trips. Mainly because Sarah and Adam are as close as any other siblings out there. Growing up in the same households. They were pretty tight when they were younger. 

So today, I woke four of them – Adam, Sarah, Azri and Ika – very early in the morning as I was expecting horrible parking at the PWTC as it was Sunday and a long weekend due to May 1, the next day.

As we browsed around three floors of booths selling books on discounted prices I was getting disappointed by the minutes to see that despite the “International” name attached to the book fest, almost 90 per cent of the books being sold were in Malay. And the genres mainly Malay trashy love novels-turn-to-drama series and Islamic books.

To be fair, there must be reason why the book fest is as it was today… may be one day I will learn the truth…

However, thank God for MPH and a handful of other multi-national publishers that we could get our hands on international best-sellers such as from John Grisham, Michael Crichton, Dan Brown, Daniel Steel and Barbara Taylor Bardfod – just to mention a few… on discounted prices, of course!

And we walked towards to the leading language body in the country – Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka  (DBP) – hoping to find the gems of yesteryears, despite my misgiving about DBP’s role now being almost a white elephant in its existence compared when I was much younger, DBP would be THE place for me to find rare and high quality novels in Malay.

Names such as Usman Awang, Azizi Haji Abdullah, Shahnon Ahmad, Pak Sako ( Ishak Haji Mohamad ), Tongkat Warrant, Keris Mas, Arena Wati, A. Samad Said, Othman Kelantan, Adibah Amin and Khatijah Hashim. These names are my idols, they were the one who introduced me to novel, not just trashy love novel that flooded the market in the recent years but their works are timeless Malay literature.

Some of the books by these writers were included in the education syllabus especially for those who were studying in art stream. That we had to understand the book from cover to cover to enable us to sit for our exam. I will talk more about these legendary writers in my next post.

But what did I find at DBP booth? Nil. I was very disappointed. Extremely disappointed and annoyed. They have several racks of Malay books but I am not interested. I was looking for the gem of Malay literature and sadly I found DBP booth, wanting…

After circling around  DBP booth for several rounds, hoping to find something that would strike my fancy. Nope. So I ushered my children to leave. Time to have lunch at the Royal Selangor Club…I know they were all starving…

Even for 17-year-old Sarah, she found the book fest disappointing. Can’t really blame her because she was really into English novels.

She was hoping with the book fest being called International Book Festival, she could find plenty of English books at one place but sadly it was not the case.

I guess we visited the wrong book fest for the wrong books… Our next target should be Big Bad Wolf Books Fair… Sarah would be in heaven if we manage to attend the book fair in the near future… A