English or Malay ... just read lah

English or Malay ... just read lah
Amir Muhammad's Fixi Verso imprint is now translating English language bestsellers into Malay.

MALAYSIA - Two local publishing companies are shaking things up with interesting forays into translation. Shakespeare and Stephen King in Malay, anyone?

Hafiz Hamzah, founder and editor of Pustaka Obscura, put out Obscura late last year featuring translated snippets of Shakespeare's The Tempest, T.S Eliot's The Wasteland, and Homer's Iliad, among others.

More recently, Facebook was abuzz with news that publisher Amir Muhammad was releasing Malay versions of King's 2013 book Joyland and Neil Gaiman's bestseller, also from last year, The Ocean At The End Of The Lane.

Amir joked on his Facebook page that he is now "not just a Stephen King FAN but a Stephen King PUBLISHER". His post also mentioned that of King's more than 50 books, this is the first one to be translated into Malay.

This is, of course, not the first time popular English language books have been translated into Malay: J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter series and Stephenie Meyer's Twilight saga were translated into Malay by the Pelangi Publishing Group. But apart from those "event" projects, English language bestsellers translated into Malay seem to be few and far between.

Classics and literary works are translated more often, with books such as R.K. Narayan's The Man-Eater Of Malgudi (1961) and Anita Desai's A Village By The Sea (1982) being released in Malay by the Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka as Jelatang Malgudi and Sebuah Kampung Di Pinggir Laut respectively.

But books by the likes of King and Gaiman, or Dean Koontz and Sophie Kinsella? Not so much.

Could the quality of translation be a factor? After all, it's not easy capturing nuance and tone in a different language, a fact acknowledged by awards such as the prestigious International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award: if the winning title is an English translation, the €100,000 (S$175,000) prize money is split between author and translator with the latter receiving €25,000.

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