Sun

28

Apr

2013

Traditional Malay Literature: Most Canonical Authors / Works?

So, after reading through Braginsky's 890-page work (including index), taking notes all along and summarizing in various blog post, what are the most canonical works that potentially should be included in the next or an expanded version of World Canonical Texts?

 

The top 5 in my mind would be:

- Hikayat Indraputra (~1600)

- Sejarah Melayu (1536/1612)

- Hamzah Fansuri's works (~1600)

- Nuruddin ar-Raniri's Bustan as-salatin (1641)

- Hikayat Cekel Waneng Pati (~1500)

 

There are several criteria that are important in my mind (no particular order):

A. number of extant manuscripts

B. number of page referenced by Braginsky

C. date of work

D. described influence within traditional Malay tradition

E. impact on modern Malay authors

F. representativeness of genre in Malay literature

G. representativeness of work in genre

H. whether work translated into other SE Asia languages (and how many)

I. not immediately derivative from canonical works from other traditions

 

On these 9 criteria:

 

- Hikayat Indraputra fits 8 of them (except E) -- and of course, weaker in terms of reference by Braginsky; though the way Braginsky writes it he seems to intends it to be remembered as a key work (last work discussed in the whole book; just like Sejarah Melayu is discussed as the last book in period before 1550AD

 

- Sejarah Melayu fits 7 of them (except F and H) -- Sejarah itself is not as widespread a genre as hikayat; but on the flip side as a work in-between history and literature it can represent the whole tradition in one work; if we identify Malay literary tradition as strongly Sufi-influenced, then this may not be the one work that can represent the whole tradition

 

- Hamzah Fansuri fits 7 of them (except A and I) -- just not many extant manuscripts. Even though his Sufism is clearly imported from central Islamic lands, he is indigenous in the sense of being a creator of syair genre. Within traditional Malay literature, Hamzah's describable influence is the strongest.

 

- Nuruddin ar-Raniri and/or Bustan as-salatin fits maybe 5 categories (except E, F, H, I) - though he has the most extant manuscripts; he is a little late in date; and his influence are less literary than religious - one can argue that he pulled Hamzah's sufi position back to more middle-of-the-road Islamic / Ghazali position that later Malay tradition followed; his genre is mixed chronicle plus mirror - arguably can represent more strands in one work (philosophy, history and literature); he is an "outsider" from Gujarat and his work feels probably more "imported" in feel than all other 4 mentioned here

 

- Hikayat Cekel Waneng Pati fits 6 cateogries (except E, H, I) - its date is very early for the tradition; influenced both Sejarah Melayu and Hikayat Indraputra; hikayat is the primary genre; and panji-romances continued to be produce in hikayat and syair after 1550AD; Braginsky did not mention its translation; and as a panji story it clearly had Javanese influence. But since it is so early it does not have strong Islamic / Sufi hint that it can hardly represent the whole Malay tradition; but if it is included as a second work, one wonders whether Malay should have 2 works or whether each of Javanese and Malay literature should have 1 representative work instead.

 

So, looking at the above, I think that if one accepts Malay tradition should be in world canonical texts mostly because of its language demographics, then the focus should be on its literature rather than on its philosophy or history (not exemplary in these later categories vs. other traditions), then the non-location specific work that can be interpreted with or without Sufism -- Hikayat Indraputra -- maybe the one work that is most likely to be included in a world canonical text list.

 

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