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Salleh Ben Joned: Truth, Beauty, Amok and Belonging

ANNA SALLEH obtained Masters in Journalism (University of Technology Sydney) and PhD at the School of Social Sciences, Media and Communication, Faculty of Arts, University of Wollongong.

With selected poems and prose by SALLEH BEN JONED

Maya Press (First published, 2023)
xii + 240 pages including Indexes


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ISBN: 9789832737728 Product ID: 40365 Subject: Sub-subjects: , , ,

Salleh Ben Joned: Truth, Beauty, Amok and Belonging shines a spotlight, for the first time, via his poems, prose and relationships, on the world view of one of the beloved Malaysian poets and public intellectual, written by his daughter Anna Salleh. Salleh Ben Joned has been described in many ways—maverick poet, bad boy of Malaysian literature, innovator of language, and by some detractors, even anti-Malaysian. He always had a strong sense of the absurd as he playfully challenged taboos on race, religion, language and identity—with brutal honesty. In both English and Malay, he celebrated the mystical, the sensual, the earthy beauty—and terror—of life itself. From Hobart to Kuala Lumpur, he pushed beyond conformist boundaries and paid the price. Words were always so much more than a meal ticket for Salleh Ben Joned. They were his life. He was an explorer of ideas, a critical thinker, and was utterly in love with books and writing. When his brain fired with inspiration, he would make deep connections and reach with urgency for the nearest 555 notebook—or paper napkin—to jot down thoughts for his next poem or essay. My father’s love affair with words extended to the art of handwriting and calligraphy, and to dramatic performance—both as a poet and as an actor. Salleh certainly had a way with words, too, prodding the comfortable posturing of powerful elites with brutal honesty and playful humour. He drew on all the streams of his being—from his village childhood to his deep knowledge of world literature—to express a Malay identity that was life-affirming, inclusive, sensual and fun. He rejected fake piety and materialism and saw God in both the sacred and the profane, producing unique provocations on everything from race and religion to language and postcolonial nation-building. In the service of his arguments, Salleh invented new words—such as Bumigeois—and questioned our understanding of well-worn ones—like khalwat. While he was most active from the 1970s to the 90s, his work continues to ignite creativity and curiosity among generations of people today in Malaysia and beyond.

A Chosen Burning Path
The literary journey of Salleh Ben Joned

1. Origins of an ‘Unlikely’ Malay (1941–1972)
Falling in love with poetry
A decade in the wild(er)ness

2. Blazing Return and Kindred Spirits (1973–1976)
‘Energy is eternal delight’
Reconnecting with Tongkat Waran
In the shadow of May 13
The gift of humour
For the love of theatre
Nature and freedom
‘Teach your mind the art of play’
‘Go to Afghanistan and be Sufis together, brother’

3. Breaking Free (1977–1987)
‘In you I taste infinity’
‘Make your supple body sing’
The spirit of the keris
‘A true flower in the desert’
The ‘bombshell’ of Sajak-Sajak Saleh
‘That book of poetry is so truthful’

4. The Making of an Iconoclast (1988–1999)
The Silence
Mother’s milk and the poetry muse
The Outsider
A literary amok in the national press

5. The Man Fades as the Legend Rises (2000 and beyond)
Gratitude for family
‘Fearless writer and public intellectual’
The SBJ legacy

Prose By and About Salleh
Excerpts from Salleh’s University of Tasmania honours thesis (1968)
From Salleh’s 1987 and 2002 afterwords in Sajak-Sajak Saleh — Poems Sacred and Profane
Excerpts from Salleh’s 1994 book As I Please:
Introduction by Margaret Drabble
Essays by Salleh
— The Art of Pissing
— The (Malay) Malaysian Writer’s Dilemma
— Salacious Pleasures of Pantuns
— Rojak is Good for Nation-Building
Afterword by Adibah Amin
Excerpts from Salleh’s 2011 playscript The Amok of Mat Solo
‘Coconut Candy’ — by Adib Faiz, 2023

Published books by SBJ

Poetry Index
General Index
About the Author

Weight0.514 kg
Dimensions23.5 × 18 × 1.8 cm





Year Published


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