Here Are 7 Things You Probably Didn't Know About Malaysian Author KS Maniam

The celebrated author was 78 years old when he passed away on 19 February.

Cover image via Astro Ulagam & VM Simadan

Local writer Subramaniam Krishnan, also known as KS Maniam, passed away on Wednesday, 19 February at 78 years old

According to Malay Mail, KS Maniam passed away at Universiti Malaya Medical Centre due to cancer of the bile duct.

KS Maniam was born on 4 March 1942, and was from a small town in Bedong, Kedah. His grandmother had, like many others, migrated from India to the Malay Peninsula around 1916, according to a report.

He was well known for his famous book, The Return which was taught to secondary school students.

Image via Astro Ulagam

Let us remember one of Malaysia's best writers with some interesting facts about his life:

1. His writing career began at the age of 22, when he published his first poem

He has been writing for over 55 years and has carried his love for books almost all his life.

His first published short story was called Ratnamuni, a story about a semi-literate estate worker, Muniandy, and his attempts to make some sense of both his complex familial relationships and his life in a new land.

He then eventually went on to write three novels: The Return (1981), In A Far Country (1993), and Between Lives (2003).

Some short stories he has written are The Third Child (1981), We Make It To The Capital (1984), and The Aborting (1986).

2. Maniam studied medicine briefly, but quickly made a switch to teaching in the UK

Celebrating writer KS Mariam on 9 March 2019.

Image via University Of Notthingham

Based on a research paper, he went to England to study teacher education.

He was there from 1962 to 1964 where he attended the Malayan Teachers College in Wolverhampton.

3. Maniam lectured in English literature at University of Malaya from 1980 to 1997

His academic career reportedly commenced in 1979, when he became a lecturer in English at University of Malaya.

He worked his way to Associate Professorship, before retiring in 1997.

4. His short stories won first prize at national competitions by New Straits Times in 1987 and 1990

According to The Star, his story The Loved Flaw won him his first prize in a McDonald's short story contest that was published by New Straits Times in 1987. 

He then won again with Haunting The Tiger in a Shell contest that was published by New Straits Times in 1990.

Image via Carousell

5. He is the inaugural recipient of a literature award called the Raja Rao Award

Astro Awani reported that he won the inaugural Raja Rao Award in New Delhi, in September 2000. The now-discontinued Indian prize was given to writers who have contributed to literature.

Sri K Raja Rao was an Indian writer of English language novels and short stories. 

In a statement with a non-profit organisation, Samvad India, Maniam 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."

"I met Raja Rao in Kuala Lampur in 1987, and took him for a drive down the Malaysian estates. I suppose he felt he was back in some kind of a time warp. We had long chat about this and that, and he got to read my novel, The Return. His comment was that it was 'poetically precise'. That was praise indeed!"

6. The Return (1981) was taught in English Literature classes in some Malaysian secondary schools for five years

The Return was Maniam's very first novel and the character Periathai is reportedly, a resemblance of his grandmother, 'the redoubtable, hump-backed pedlar.' 

According to The True Net, schools have used The Return to teach Form Five students as part of their English novel of literature. His short stories have also appeared in Form Six exams. Meanwhile, his works are taught in university courses and are also subjects of research.

Image via Vallinam

7. He was also one of the founding members of Five Arts Centre

Five Arts Centre is a dynamic collective of Malaysian artists and producers, dedicated to generating alternative art forms and images in the contemporary arts landscape.

It is well known for cutting edge performances in theatre, dance, music, and young people's theatre, and incorporates aspects of the visual and digital arts.

Maniam's iconic play The Cord launched Five Arts Centre in 1984.

Image via Culture 360

Fellow writer and friend Malachi Edwin Vethamani will continue to reintroduce KS Maniam to Malaysians

According to New Straits Times, the news of Maniam's death was shared on Facebook by his friend Malachi Edwin Vethamani, a professor at the University of Nottingham Malaysia campus.

He will make sure to do whatever he can to reintroduce KS Maniam's work to a new generation of Malaysians and to ensure his place in our literary canon.

Malaysiakini reported Malachi as saying, "He wrote because he loved writing. His work will testify to the wonderful writer he was."

KS Maniam (left) at an event with Malachi Edwin Vethamani (right).

Image via University Of Notthingham

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