Bridging the Past and the Present is a festschrift honouring Muhammad Haji Salleh which comprises 14 essays from scholars worldwide. Muhammad Haji Salleh has become iconic—certainly another literary giant in Malay literature, evidenced by the outstanding awards and acclaims added to those received over the decades based on his merits and continuous efforts in producing insightful, significant, inspiring and fine articles, books, essays, papers and sajak, estimated to be more than 400, a marvelous figure, on his wide-ranging interests which include theory on Malay/Nusantara traditional, oral and written Malay/Nusantara literature, traditional and modern Malay/Nusantara poetry, translation of Malay/Nusantara literature, Malay/Nusantara literary language, authorship in the Malay/Nusantara literature and Malay/Nusantara literature in comparative perspectives, among others. The list as mentioned above categorizing his interests is only a guideline, and not exhaustive as it certainly does not do justice to this experienced, dynamic, prolific, widely travelled and outstanding poet-scholar whose interests cover folk literature, hikayat narrative literature, epic literature, historiography, traditional epistemology as listed in Kesusasteraan Tradisional Melayu (1993).
In an interview with Fadillah Merican, he highlighted some aspects of his works and relationship with others that: “Some of my poems celebrate or make reference to the traditions and importance of tradition, continuity and pride in identity and connections with others in the Malay World, of the possibilities of adjusting to modern, different conditions in order to do well by our community. But then there are just as many that touch on problems and difficulties and tensions. You write for yourself as much as about people and the fact that you live in an ‘in-between’ situation of tradition and modernity (of Malay and European societies) of being ‘at home’ and traveling outside, of admiring the Western literary heritage and yet bent on preserving the Asian one—all these mean that your poems can never be celebratory all the time. I do not consider myself an ‘unhoused’ writer who needs that condition to be able to write creatively. I am Malay and part of my identity-kit is to be able to use and to encourage others to use the language to express clearly, poetically, our thoughts. At the same time I consciously seek out what the world has to offer, by travelling and interacting with other creative writers and engaging in collaborative efforts.”
The papers in this volume are like a collective pond of some of the personal perspectives, admiration and thoughts of some of his colleagues, friends, and students towards him and for him. They may be combined and recombined, mixed with other volumes of festschrift and collections on him to help us know and understand him better whether as a leading educator, literary critic, scholar, editor, poet, theorist or essayist, etc as he is as one of Malaysia’s National Laureates.
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