Congratulations to my good friend Isa Kamari for the launch of "Pilgrimage", a new book of Malay-English poems inspired by his pilgrimage to Mecca.
Opening the session, translator Prof Harry Aveling observed that in hectic Singapore, "life is lived in constant translation. We need to be aware at all times what is being gained, what is being lost."
Isa did a recital of his poems with a difference: he sang "Gunung Berapi", "Raudhah", and then "Kepulangan" to melodies of his own composition, and in each case Prof Aveling read his English version of the poem.
There was a fascinating discussion about "rindu", which Prof Aveling noted is a key emotion in Malay culture that resists translation to other languages—it is a kind of need, longing, desire, nostalgia, or melancholy that encompasses the physical, emotional and spiritual.
In response to a question, Isa said "All my writings have always been spiritual in its outlook, no matter what the specific content. That's because I am a spiritual person, a pilgrim."
Well done Ethos Books for another outstanding publication and for hosting a memorable launch event at the beautiful National Gallery Singapore!