To read Alfian s Malay Sketches or any of his writing for theatre, print, or online is to gaze unflinchingly at the blemished truths we hide from the stories we tell our friends the intimate moments with our families the awkward, the uncomfortable, the shameful and the ones that are full of love These are the stories we all know, these are the days we have lived and narrated in our heads for only our hearts to hear uncensored and woven with a poetry only Alfian is capable of This is the best of Singaporean literature a read I would recommend and make compulsory in schools if I had my way. 3.5 4 Malay Sketches Is A Collection Of Stories That Borrows Its Name From A Book Of Anecdotes By Colonial Governor Frank Swettenham, Describing Malay Life On The Peninsula In Alfian Sa At S Hands, These Sketches Are Reimagined As Flash Fictions That Record The Lives Of Members Of The Malay Community In Singapore With Precise And Incisive Prose, Malay Sketches Offers The Reader Profound Insights Into The Realities Of Life As An Ethnic Minority Every turn of the page feels like you re discovering a golden nugget The stories were written in a simple but poignant way, as though they came from our own memories and onto the pages of the book Each story touches on a different aspect of what it is like to be Malay It doesn t discount the changes that Malays have undergone in terms of personal identity as well as a race in general Some stories will cause you to be self reflective Others will allow you discover aspects of the Malay culture that you may have taken for granted or may have never known at all This is a book I ll definitely recommend to anyone and everyone who wants to know what it s like to be Malay. The archetypal Malay is deconstructed and demystified to the reader ostensibly an Other one of the remaining three official races that make up Singapore s CMIO racial model I found myself empathizing with the anxieties that plague the Malay minority here preconceived stereotypes, covert sometimes overt racism, the paradoxical essence of Malayness, to name but a few Through this I have gained a newfound respect and deeper understanding of the Malay community in Singapore. Alfian Saat captures vividly the maladies affecting the Malay people in Singapore Bringing back the popular Malay myths such as Pontianak and Hantu Tetek, he rewrites these popular tales into everyday vignettes Alfian humanizes these living legends I love them His re imagination of these tales struck a chord in me He weaves common perceptions of the Malays and portrays the reality of racial tension that have always been swept aside by the government He reveals the dark underbelly of this tiny island within the Malay Archipelago, where its native people are no longer the majority, and have to struggle to survive that tide of change He does it in a way that does not reflect utter bitterness or a sense of victimization that posits the Malay as the marginalized Instead, he does it with so much integrity and wit that it showcases the complexity, the culture within and the tendencies of the Malay people that has its own pros and cons and should be celebrated nonetheless I laughed, I smirked and I felt Alfian Saat brings back the Singapore that I have lost That is bittersweet. Moving, poignant and funny, Alfian s study of Malay culture in Singapore is an amazing collection of vignettes Tackling a diverse set of issues such as the death penalty and political detention are tales of love and redemption Highly recommended. This book is nothing short of brilliant And this is coming from a person who hates flash fiction, mainly because I ve never seen anyone write them well before Alfian Saat s Malay Sketches is a nod to Frank Swettenham s Malay Sketches but whereas the latter is nonsensical colonialist literature that relies on racist tropes, Alfian s book sheds a light on Malay Singaporeans that is sincere, earnest and poignant It is as though Alfian manages to tap into every Malay Singaporean s secret wound In just a handful of paragraphs, Alfian is able to create glimpses of a world where issues like identity, sense of belonging, and racism are carefully explored Every story is a marvel to read The illustrations are gorgeous and fitting, too Being a Malay, I initially assumed I could relate to this book But being Malaysian, I am only looking in from the outside It does make me rethink of my ideas of what Malayness means and how different it is when applied to something beyond my own experience A great read, it s a pity that it s actually quite difficult to find in Malaysia Highly recommended. A beautifully written collection, providing a unique insight into Singapore s Malay culture, which has thus far been under represented in English language Singaporean writing I m a big fan of flash fiction it s an exceedingly difficult art form, where an entire narrative must be distilled into less than a thousand words, but Alfian proves exceptionally deft here at capturing small moments that bespeak big narratives Fully one quarter of these pieces are good enough to find their way into Year s Best anthologies I greatly hope that he returns to prose again in the future Highly recommended. Words used are simple yet they stir up such provoking thoughts Are the Singaporean Malays just a bunch of lazy people leading a hedonistic lifestyle No, we are a pretty diverse group Are we too laid back In a fast paced society like ours, that s actually a plus point Are we too stupid Definitely not But sometimes, we re made to believe that Will the Malays ever move up the ranks of this supposedly egalitarian state HAHA Maybe, if we allow ourselves to believe that there is true meritocracy And does this book answers all the above questions Yes, though the answers are at times implied rather than blatant, left open for the readers to interpret in their own way Will I recommend this book to other Malays I don t need to since they ll pick it up anyway However, I strongly suspect they re not exactly the target audience.