A Primer on Brunei Classical Literature

If you have been a regular reader of this blogsite and of my column in Brunei Times, you would notice that I have several constant or regular references which I always refer to. This includes the Syair Awang Semaun and the Batu Tarsilah or Genealogical Stone Tablet. Sometimes I refer to other classical works. I don't know about you all but I personally have been curious whether out there lies some sort of primer about Brunei's classical works.

A primer in American parlance is an introductory but always comprehensive introduction to some principles and major techniques or tools etc. I remembered when I was in the States doing my Masters, the one textbook which I needed to master was 'A Primer for Policy Analysis' written by Edith Stokey and Richard Zeckhauser. My minister still raved about these two professors when he did his a couple of years earlier before I did.

Anyway, I am digressing. Last Sunday, I found this one book by accident and I am recommending this book to everyone while the Book Fair is still open to the public. Gira Ujan, a retired education officer wrote a book called 'Pengantar Sejarah Kesusateraan Klasik Melayu Brunei' and published by Dewan Bahasa Pustaka Brunei. This book was printed last year and is now available at DBP.

If you have ever wanted to know about what the poems of Brunei such as pantuns, ranjang, naindong, syair etc; or the handed down generations about the origins of certain places, the various hantus and pontianaks (including tales of real life experiences - read the one about the giant jin); or the various legends; or the various hikayats; or about historiography; or about the various historic legal literature; or even old kitabs such as Kitab Adat al-Marhum fi-Adat al-Marhum; or the epic literature such as Syair Awang Semaun; or even some of the early Brunei writers - well, it's all in the book.

This book being a primer does not cover each subject in depth but it certainly provided a comprehensive introduction to the history of Brunei's classical literature. Being a member of one of Brunei's ethnic races, Gira Ujan provides a unique insight into his own race's literature but also into the Brunei Malay's literature.

As usual, books by Dewan Bahasa are not costly, this one only cost $7.60. I would suggest, during this lunchtime, make a point to go to the DBP booth at the Book Fair and fork out that much money. Forget about lunch, feed your mind instead - gorge on new classical information about Brunei.

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