Chuah Guat Eng, first Malaysian female novelist
For lovers of the written word, the name Chuah Guat Eng should ring a bell. Not only is she an established literary figure on the local scene, she’s also the first Malaysian English-language female novelist. Better known for her novels Echoes of Silence and Days of Change – her other books Dream Stuff and The Old House and Other Stories are a collection of short stories.
And while it may seem as if English novels by Malaysian authors are now gaining critical literary acclaim, the environment hadn’t always been so conducive as she briefly mentioned to a local newspaper.
“For me, as a young, aspiring novelist, these laws were inhibiting. The Sedition Act was particularly worrisome because it criminalized the raising of ‘sensitive issues’, a term so vaguely defined that it could mean anything and everyone one wanted to write about. On top of that, there was the nagging feeling that to write in English was somehow to be a traitor to the national cause – and so I made a bonfire of my notes and my dreams of writing.”