A TASTE OF LIBERATION
We’ve screamed halfway past 2017 already, and you’ll be reading this after the triumph and triumphalism of KL2017’S record medal haul for both the SEA Games and Para Games, all perfectly cleaving to the script for Merdeka and Malaysia Day, followed by President Xi Jinping’s almost-visit to open Xiamen University here, and who knows what next. (Print is a fun medium because it allows for speculation.)
Cue scenes of triumph, triumphalism, President Trump, PM Najib, the Trump Tower; cut to ‘Beds in the East’ on page 82: Anthony Burgess fan Mark Disney writes an ode to his politically incorrect curmudgeon-hero, and unearths a trove of entertaining insights and starting points for further exploration of Malayan history. Burgess is an unfairly less well-known author; less famous than Somerset Maugham, for example, even though he was born 100 years ago this year and taught a generation of corporate and political chieftains at that redoubt of national leadership, Malay College Kuala Kangsar. When you remember that he wrote A Clockwork Orange, you begin to wonder how a writer and teacher could change the course of a country. The novel is only part of an eclectic multimedia oeuvre that includes Malayan Trilogy and other megaprojects.
We segue to ‘Son of the Soil’ (page 32), where Pauline Fan keeps with the theme by illuminating Carlos Bulosan’s Filipino immigrant experience, one yoked to economic conditions and race, both essential ingredients of identity, which we use to distinguish ourselves from one another: believer from unbeliever, sacred from profane, man from woman. Race and economy were writ large in Bulosan’s life—and ours.
More on ingredients and identity: ‘Second to Nun’ (page 72) was first published in the food issue of this magazine’s excellent counterpart, Esquire Singapore. We’ve distilled it for Malaysia, and mixed in some of Paul Gadd’s astonishing shots of the global but still unworldly superstar nun, Jeong Kwan sunim. Like Gadd, Ming the food pro had trekked to Chunjinam Hermitage in Korea, where he struggled to reconcile a “gentle, gentle” presence of a nun with a masculine physicality. Jeong Kwan sunim’s evanescent cuisine is à la minute and in-season. There are no recipes, let alone carbs, fats or protein; just food cooked with care and levity that caters to what you need, then and there. For Ming, it was perhaps a taste of liberation.
Speaking of which, why have so many of us taken up running? Yes, sneakers, but also to get away from the bits of life we don’t like (haha, not likely), or at least the endorphin-high will wipe away the sorrows of modern lifestyle for a few kilometres. Kuah Jenhan’s Run Away Now! series of marathons (page 50) is an insightful observation of the trending outdoor activity of our times. Then there’s the Barkley Marathons in the Appalachians for very serious runners.
JASON TAN Editor-in-chief