Cambridge Journals Digital Archives
In significant contrast with Indonesian writing there is in Malay literature a body of work concerned with rural life. That this is the case suggests the degree to which Malay writers even today have their roots in the agricultural cycle of peasant experience. Those who now work in clerical jobs, in publishing, in journalism, in teaching, those in fact who make up the writers of the novels, however divorced and remote their present life-styles and occupations are from their origins, still look back to the village as the world of their formative experience. It is a world with which they are intimate and familiar, a source of spiritual reassurance, of values which they may not endorse, but which they understand fully, in opposition to the alien environment of the modern city where the totality of life is fragmented into exclusive and contradictory domains of experience. And it is precisely because the writers are not so removed from rural life in space and time, that when they do cast a glance backwards they are never tempted to review that life through the distorting lens of nostalgia. On the contrary, there is the realistic acknowledgement that their own moving away from the village has also been an escape. There is, therefore, ambivalence: the village is perceived as the repository of Malay culture, the locus of traditional values, yet at the same time it is a locus of ignorance, frustration and poverty, somewhere to return for spiritual regeneration, but never again for permanent residence.
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