Book Review: Matanya Teleskop, Hatinya Kapal Dalam Botol Kaca by Sufian Abas

matnya-teleskopFirst published on 23rd August, 2009 in The Star


Author: Sufian Abasa

Publisher: Sang Freud Press

ALTHOUGH HE doesn’t write specifically for adolescents, I think Sufian Abas has the sort of weird and wonderful imagination needed to create the sort of romantic fantasies teenagers would be only too eager to lose themselves in. They would most certainly identify with Sufian’s love-sick characters, his delusional young men and wide-eyed young women, all wandering through a world lit by fluorescent strips and filled with dusty roads, stuffy LRT coaches and gaudy fast food joints.

It’s a world that smells, sweetly and sharply, of rotting garbage and paint-stripper; a world where ceilings leak and the plumbing is jammed with blood and guts and broken hearts. A horrific world, a romantic world, a world swollen with unrequited love and lost dreams. Just the sort of landscape hyper-sensitive, melodramatic young adults like to pretend they inhabit.

Matanya Teleskop, Hatinya Kapal Dalam Botol Kaca (The Eye is a Telescope, the Heart a Ship in a Glass Bottle) is the intriguing, irresistible title of Sufian’s new collection of urban tales. The mind boggles and at the same time is filled with images rare and various.

It’s a tiny book that will fit comfortably in the pocket of those hideous turquoise pinafores secondary school girls wear. Or the back-pocket of trousers. I won’t encourage reading during class, but the stories are so short, they can be polished off, two or three at a time, between classes. They are delicious – like washing down extra spicy sambal with fizzy Fanta orange.

Kisah Shamsul yang Menjual Kameranya Untuk Cinta Tapi yang Diperolehinya Lakaran Gambar Hati Di Atas Kertas (The Tale of Shamsul Who Sells His Camera for Love but Gets Only a Sketch of a Heart) is one of several tales that take up less than a page, but the longest,Roman Tentang Catur (A Romance Concerning Chess), is just five pages short. However, they are the sort of stories that will leave you scratching your ear, your mouth hanging open, a furrow between your eyebrows. When your teacher enters the classroom you might forget to wish her, and you will probably find it hard to keep your mind on the chief exports of New Foundland as you ponder the meaning of Tiga Ekor Rama-Rama Plastik Yang Anak Saudaraku Pakai di Rambut (Three Plastic Butterflies My Niece Wore in Her Hair) or Kucing Bernama Sam yang Jatuh Cinta Pada Pelangi Tapi Mati Kesepian Di Tepi Longkang (Sam the Cat, Who Falls In Love with a Rainbow But Dies, Lonely, Near a Drain).

My favourite story is Siapa Yang Mahu Mengetuk Pintu Hatiku? (Who Will Knock on the Door to My Heart?): No one has knocked at the door of Awang’s heart for five years. Poor Awang – he used to be in a classic-rock band and he had a beautiful girlfriend, but she left him for the lead singer, and Awang was then sacked. Now he plays violin, at kids’ parties, for Bibot the red-shod dancing teddy bear. A doctor agrees to operate on Awang and finds a woman, 12-cm tall, living in his heart. She’s a Leo and her hobbies are reading and collecting stamps. The doctor figures, after two hours of flirting with the little lady, that no one has knocked on the door of Awang’s heart because it already has an occupant.

You might suspect Sufian of spending his cash on jumbo-size tubes of UHU, but, in fact, only fear and logic prevent us from exploring the fantastic truths that might lie behind the frequently inexplicable nature of things. What if people really had hamsters on wheels instead of hearts? That might explain a lot, don’t you think?



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