Remembering KS Maniam, A Malaysian Literary Giant
The Malaysian literary scene recently lost one of its most prominent members, KS Maniam, who succumbed to his battle with cancer on 19 February 2020.
Most Malaysians remember his novel, The Return, originally published in 1981 which was a popular reading material in secondary schools in the early 2000s.
Apart from novels, he has also written poems, short stories and even plays in his lifetime.
In honour of his contributions, we compiled a list of important facts for our readers to learn more about this revered Malaysian author and academician.
1. He was supposed to study medicine but ended up becoming an English teacher.
Born Subramaniam Krishnan on 4th March 1942, KS Maniam grew up in a small town in Bedong, Kedah. After completing his studies in 1960, he left to India where he was supposed to study medicine. However, he stopped his medical studies and decided to go to England to become an English teacher at the Malay Teachers College in Wolverhampton.
Upon returning to Malaysia, he taught each English in Kedah for a few years before becoming an Associate Professor in Universiti Malaya’s (UM) English Department, retiring in 1997.
2. He loved books and writing, becoming an author at the age of 22.
KS Maniam’s first work, a poem, was first published when he was just 22 years old!
He won writing competitions organised by NST in 1987 and 1990 and went on to become widely known with novels such as The Return, In A Far Country and Between Lives.
His works were believed to shape English literature in Malaysia, highlighting nationality, history, culture, language and belief, based on his personal experiences.
According to Malaysiakini, KS Maniam’s friend and fellow writer, Malachi Edwin Vethamani said, “He (Maniam) wrote because he loved writing. His work will testify to the wonderful writer he was.”
KS Maniam believed that everyone has a story to tell. His advice for aspiring writers – “If they (aspiring writers) feel they have the writing spirit in them, never give up, go on writing. If they feel after a while that this spirit is not there, then they should do other things,” he told The Star.
3. KS Maniam was the first recipient of the Raja Rao Award.
According to Astro Awani, KS Maniam was reported to have won the inaugural literature award, the Raja Rao Award in September 2000. The award was presented in New Delhi.
The award (now discontinued) was awarded to writers who made a contribution to literature as Sri K Raja Rao was an Indian writer of novels and short stories in English.
On being presented the award, he said, “The Raja Rao Award is indeed great news, and I’m only too willing to accept it! I’ve been a great admirer of his works.” (source: Samvad India)
4. The Return (1981) was introduced and taught in English literature classes in Malaysian secondary schools for five years.
His first novel, The Return, features Periathai, a character based on the writer’s own grandmother.
Other short stories written by the author also made it into Form Six examination papers and taught in university courses and subjects of research (source: The True Net).
5. He was a founding member of the Five Arts Centre.
KS Maniam’s play, The Cord, launched Five Arts Centre in 1984.
The centre earned a name of its own as Malaysia’s leading space for theatre, dance and musical performances.
* Featured image sourced from Astro Ulagam