The sleeping RM10 million in DBP’s coffer

(Click here for the online version)

LAST Monday, I received an invitation to attend a fellow blogger’s book launch at the Putra World Trade Centre, organised by her publisher Dewan Bahasa & Pustaka (DBP).

Kanser Payudaraku by Dalilah Tamrin was launched together with 200 other titles published by DBP, a statutory body set up in 1956 to propel the use of the Malay language as a language of knowledge, intellect and unity.

Naturally when an invitation is about a book, and nothing to do with anyone getting married, I am drawn to it like a moth all-a-flutter, fuelling my desire to buy books (which always supersedes this writer’s dire economic situation).

As I sat at the PWTC concourse listening to the opening speech by the DBP director-general (DG), Datuk Termuzi Abdul Aziz, I picked up on something: a 10-times-over millionaires’ fund had been set up to aid the national book industry since 2007.

Thus far, only RM3 million – 30 per cent of the allocation – had been appropriated and malangnya, owing to the lacklustre response from Malaysia’s writing fraternity.

To the DG’s disappointment, despite the DBP promoting the fund in its magazine and advertising it in local newspapers annually, the response from the publishing industry and local authors alike have been lukewarm at best.

Really?

What happened to the literary society of my country?

Are the writers-publishers sleeping?

Investigate this unhealthy behaviour I must – can’t let any potential Tash Aws or Tan Twan Engs of this nation’s claim to Booker fame stay in hiding forever, can I?

A quick browse of DBP’s website shone some light on the subject.

Ah, eligibility for funding: local publishers must publish non-fiction books and they must be in Malay.

DBP only publishes the following genres: Buku Mewah; Buku Biografi; Buku umum bukan fiksyen; Buku pengetahuan remaja; Buku bergambar kanak-kanak (informatif); Buku pengetahuan kanak-kanak. Okay, now we know one major reason why the fund has not been utilised.

No fiction.

But is it not true that to propel any language to its pinnacle, we must not discriminate against any particular genre?

Are we not supposed to read all kinds of everything for knowledge’s sake?

After all, English fiction authors in the likes of Hemmingway, Camus (translated) and Austen have, in their own ways, been instrumental in setting the benchmark for English literature.

If we dream of seeing Malay as a language of knowledge, we would certainly fare much better by nurturing more Usman Awangs (Tongkat Warrens) and Adibah Amins in our literary scene, no?

On a whim, I randomly clicked on the link titled Ingin Menulis? – which promptly led me to an “object not found” page.

What a letdown.

I say, Datuk, if you want to put the fund to good and full use, you ought to leverage on the new media – the Internet – more effectively.

Simply placing the advertisement in your magazine and in local newspapers alone is no longer sufficient these days.

You can emulate what local publishing house Silverfish does; it vigorously promotes the birth of new authors with its Silverfish New Writing Series and countless other publications – fiction and non. Lastly, Datuk, inviting Raja Lawak to perform at the end of your massive 200 non-fiction books launch?

Given the nature of the event, comedy is stranger than fiction.

● What Elviza Michele Kamal has just written is non-fiction. She blogs at http://www.elviza.wordpress.com

10 thoughts on “The sleeping RM10 million in DBP’s coffer

  1. What happened to the interest gain for the fund? Masuk poket sapa? They should make public about the this fund. Thanks to curious ears like you now we got to know about this fund. 10 million is not a small amount of money.

  2. Pingback: Daily News About Books : A few links about Books - Monday, 27 April 2009 01:01

  3. “But is it not true that to propel any language to its pinnacle, we must not discriminate against any particular genre?”

    Spot on sayang. Creativity is supressed when shackled. It will be a challenge for you to change that. YES YOU CAN!

  4. Aye Aye….!!! I clap, I apllaud, I nod!
    In full agreement.
    Why no fiction, I do wonder….*tapi rasa nya macam tahu jer jawapannya! Hish*

    Just in case someone up there in a power seat somewhere think otherwise, I will say the obvious, “Malaysians are capable of thinking too!”

  5. If I have access to that fund, I’d publish you, that equivalent of you in male form, Mat Bangkai, some of Mat Salo’s full of guts posting. I let you know more after I browse the blogsphere (my boss is in JB, horay!).

  6. hi elviza,

    thanks for telling us about the RM10m fund.

    by the way, good thing you made some corrections of mistakes/errors in your blog version that went thru uncorrected in the printed (Malay Mail) version.

    I don’t normally read the Malay Mail. But I was at a friend’s place and was browsing. Then lo and behold, I saw your column. Was so pleased to see your column.

    anyway i saw a couple of mistakes. Camus is Algerian whose books were in French. You were talking about English fiction authors and Camus is (was) not English. You didn’t have the bracketed “translated” in the printed version.

    (The online version has been corrected, though.)

    You also said (in the printed version)…the Usmans Awangs, Tongkat Warrens… giving the impression that these are two different people. when in actuality, they are the same person . As you know (do you?) Tongkat Warrant was Usman’s nome de plume or pseudonym. You didn’t bracket Tongkat Warrant in the printed version.

    Adibah Amin is a writer of English. She is not known as an author of Malay books.

    Also, Hemingway is spelt (not Hemmingway) as I have spelt it and Tongkat Warrant is spelt as so (not Warren).

    Sorry…just to point out. Not trying to make a mountain of a molehill but I reckon a writer has to be good.

    Keep on writing and practicing, Elviza. You’ll be good one day. As good as Mat Bangkai.

  7. dear ms. elviza,

    artikel yg bagus. saya menunggu 6 hari sebelum memberi komen. kenapa? kerana komen saya sama dengan idayu. kerana saya rasa anda dah tersilap. Sasterawan Negara-Dato’ (Dr) Usman Awang-salah satu nama penanya-ejaannya ialah Tongkat Warrant bukan Tongkat Warren. Betulkan? Atau editor / pruf reader di malay mail yang tersilap? entahlah. tapi tulisan anda di sini membuktikan sebaliknya. Anda boleh periksa sendiri. Anda kan peguam-pasti mementingkan ketepatan fakta.

    err, satu lagi-kalau anda menulis nama seorang ahli politik dan anda tidak menulis segala dato’, dato seri dll itu di pangkal namanya, bagaimana pula?

  8. I don’t think the situation will improve. The current trend in the west is for the printing press to go out of printing and replaced by digital media. Unfortunately there’s none stopping this tide because that’s the way the future generation will role. I now listen to audiobooks and podcast. I read rss feeds, e-zine and blogs rather than magazines or journals. I think maybe the DBP should consider channeling some of the fundings for the development of digital as well as traditional medium …. just my 2 sens

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