[Review] Interlock by Abdullah Hussain

Title: Interlock, originally in Malay: Interlok
Author: Abdullah Hussain, translated by: Azizah Hamzah & Hashim Yaacob
Page: 406 pages
Genre: Historical Fiction
Subject: Malaysia, British Colonization, Malaysian Ethnics, Social Division
First Published: 1971

Interlock covers the period from the early 20th century to Malaya’s independence from British rule. The main theme in this novel is the integration of the various majority races of Malaya and how the Malays, Chinese and Indians, represented by three families, have contributed towards this sovereign nation.

- Synopsis from book cover

Interlock tells a story about three families from three major races in Malaya; the Malay, the Chinese and the Indian during the British colonialism around the early 1900s. During that time, they live among their own races and have their own perceptions towards each other. The Malays are seen as stupid, backward and lazy. The Chinese are good in business but materialistic and deceitful.

There was a controversy around this novel some time ago about the usage of certain term in the book that was deemed by some people as racist. I have not read the original Malay version of this book, I am not sure how much things got edited in the English translation version but after reading it I did not see any sensitive issues. The stories depicted in the book was fictional (I think) but it reflected the issues that was happening in the colonial Malaya during the time. The so-called controversial term "pariah" that provoked anger in some people came from the caste system in India, which I am sure was not in any way an attempt of being racial on the writer's part. This novel, seen as a whole had a positive and strong message: Each and every one of us is different but in the end we are all humans with the same underlying ambition and hope.

There is the good side of history and there is the bad side. And that's the reason why history was thought in schools so that we all can learn from it.

I rate this book 3 out of 5 based on its translated edition. This is a work of Malaysian literature in its purest form but the direct literal and verbatim translation did not do the writer justice. 


marmalade said…
managed to finally read my list of bloggers! :)
ah, you read the translation version. i haven't had a copy of that one and i wouldn't know how bad it was translated from malay. but i trust you.

we need translators like, the one who translated the shadow of the wind eh?