The long day wanes (Anthony Burgess)

A Malayan Trilogy - set in the 1950s in the post-war and pre-independence Malaya

Anthony Burgess

The Long Day Wanes - A Malayan Trilogy

Time for a Tiger (1956)
The Enemy in the Blanket (1958)
Beds in the East (1959)


Selected snippets from the book:

setting the scene 1950s rural and colonial Malaya:

The river has its source in the deep jungle, where it is a watering-place for a hundred or so little negroid people (=Orang Asli) who worship thunder and can count only up to two. They share it with tigers, hamadryads, bootlace-snakes, leeches, pelandoks and the rest of the bewildering fauna of up-stream Malaya. As the river winds on, it encounters outposts of a more complex culture: Malay villages (=Kampungs) where the Koran is known, where the prophets jostle with nymphs and tree-gods in pantheon of unimaginable variety. Here a little work in the paddy-fields suffices to maintain a heliotropic, pullulating subsistence. There are fish in the river, guarded, however, by crocodile-gods of fearful malignity; coconuts drop or are hurled down by trained monkeys called beroks,; the durian sheds its rich fetid smell in the seaon of durians. ... As the river approaches the coast a more progressive civilization appears: the two modern towns of ..., made fat on tin and rubber, supporting large populations of Chinese, Malays, Indians, Eurasians, Arabs, Scots, Christian Brothers, and pale English administrators. The towns echo with trishaw-bells, the horns of smooth, smug American cars, radios blaring sentimental pentatonic Chinese tunes, the norning hawking and spitting of towkays (= Chinese shopkeeper), the call of the  East.

the mingling of cultures in multi-racial Malaya:

Sultan Aladdin preffered Chinese and European mistresses to his own Malay wives, and had love-children of many colours. He found it easy the future of Malaya in general ... rested no with the Malays alone but with the harmonious working-together of all the component races. He had few illusions about his own people: amiable, well-favoured, couteous, they loved rest better than industry; through them the penisula would never advance - rather their function was to remind the toiling Chinese, Indians and British of the ultimate vanity of labour. He saw in the mingling of many cultures the possibility of a unique and aesthetically valueable pattern.


and the seperation of the many races:

The pupils themselves, through their prefects, pressed the advantages of a racial division. The Chinese feared the Malays would run amok in the dormitories and use knives; the Malays said they did not like the smell of the Indians; the various Indian races preferred to conduct vendettas only among themselves. Besides, there was the question of food. The Chinese cried out for pork which, to the Muslims, was haram and disgusting; the Hindus would not eat meat at all, despite the persuasions of the British matron; other Indians demanded burning curries and could not stomach the insipid lauk (=food accompanying rice) of the Malays.


the wife of the protagonist Victor Crabbe complaing about humidity and more:

The humidity could be blamed for many things: the need for a siesta, corpulence, the use of the car for a hundred-yard journey, the mildew on the shoes, the sweat-rot in the armpits of dresses. the lost bridge-rubber or tennis-set, the dislike felt for the whole country.
"I quite like the country" (Victor Crabbe)
"But what is there to like? Scabby children, spitting pot-bellied shopkeepers, terrorist, burglars, scorpions, those blasted flying-beetles. And the noise of the radios and the eternal shouting. Are they all deaf or something? Where is the glamorous East they talk about? It's just a horrible sweating travesty of Europe." (Miss Crabbe)


the Indian Corporal Khan about the Malay term "Tida' apa":

He found the Malay term 'Tida' apa' useful when she spoke like that. 'Tida' apa' meant so much more than 'It doesn't matter' or 'Whot cares?'. There was something indefinable and satisfying about it, implying that the universe would carry on, the sun shine, the durians fall whatever she, or anybody else, said or did.

English teacher Victor Crabbe trying to explain the benefits of the industrial evolution to his students:

"But surely, sir, it was not good if these machines made people work, and they were right, sir, if they wished to destroy them." The Malay sat down, awaiting an answer. The West always had an answer.
"You must remember, " said Crabbe, "that technological progress has always, in theory, at any rate, sought to serve the end of great and greater human happiness." The Malay boy nodded vigorously. "Man was not born to work." All the Malays nodded. "He was born to be happy." The solitary Sikh smiled through his sparse beard. "Man needs leisure to cultivate his mind and senses. ... And so machines come along and they do more and more of our work for us and give us more leisure."
The Malay boy seemed puzzled. "But, sir, in the kampongs (=village) they have no machines but they have a lot of leisure. They sit in the sun and do no work and they are happy. I do not see how machines can give leisure."
"All right, all right!" Crabbe scrotched the argument at birth. "Don't get off the point." But he realised, they had never been on the point. Again he felt hopeless. This was the East. Logic was a Western importation which, unlike films and refrigerators, had a small market.


describing the lively town life:

Crisp, exquisite, the Chinese girls toddled in sororities, their cheonsams (=Chinese dresses) split to their thin thighs. A half-naked Tamil carried the corpse of a fish. Chettiars (=Tamil subgroup, associated with moneylending) in dhotis (=garment worn by men) waved money-loving arms, talking excitedly with frank smiles. Wrinkled Chinese patriarchs raked their throats for for residuary phlegm. Wrinkled Sikh fortune-teller jabbed repeatedly at a client's palm. Seller of sateh - pieces of tripe and liver a skewer - breathed in the fumes of their fires. Soft-drink sellers brooded over blue and green and yellow bottles. In the barber-shops the many customers lay back like the sheeted dead. Over all the presided the fetid, exciting reek of durian, for this was the season of durians. Nabby Adams had once been to a durian party. It was like, he thought, eating a sweet raspberry blancmange in the lavatory.


The British teacher Victor Crabbe and the Malay Inche Kamarudding discussing about who should rule Malaya:

'They felt differently about us then,' said Crabbe. 'They felt that we (=the British) had something to give.'
'You still have something to give,' insisted Inche Kamarudding, 'but in a free Malaya dat shall be ruled by de Malays.'
'And the Chinese? And the Indians, the Eurasians?'
'Dey do not count;' grinned Inche Kamaruddin. 'Dey are not the friends of the Malays. Malaya is a country for de Malays.'
The work of translation stopped, and the old political wrangle began again. Crabbe was reasonable, pointing out that the Chinese made the country economically rich, that the British had brought rule and justice, that the majority of the Malays were Indonesian immigrants. Inche Kamaruddin grew heated, waving excited arms, grinning passionately, finally shouting, 'Merderka! Merdeka! Freedom, independence, self-determination for de Malays!'
'Merdeka itself is a Sanskrit word' said Crabbe, 'a foreign importation.'



In the second book, the Crabbes moved to the eastcoast, the Malay heartland, this how Burgess sets the stage:

The chieftown was bulbous with mosques and loud with the cries of many muezzins. Islam was powerful. During the fasting month police squads dragged out sinful daytime eaters from house or coffee-shop. Non-attendance at the mosque on Friday - if discovered - was heavily fined. Polygamy was practiced and divorcèe prostitutes were thick on the evening streets. But ancient Hinduism and primitive magic prevailed in villages and suburbs. The bomoh, or magician, cured pox and fever, presided at weddings and grew rich on the fees of fishermen who begged prayers for a good catch. Gods of the sea and gods of the rice-grain were invoked, threatened, rewarded. And from the north came the Siamese Buddhism to complicate further the religious patterns ...
The Cathey Cinema advertising an Indonesian film called Hati Ibu - 'A Mother's Heart.' A huge brown weeping face and, in the background of the poster, the rising generation in jeans and Hawaiian shirts, off for a spree, forgetting the old ways, unmoved by the mother's tears. In the next next-door kiosk a sulky ripe Malay girl offered lottery tickets for sale. Sweat shone on the lean shoulders of a turbaned fisherman, his silver-gleaming catch hanging from a pole. There was a loud leisurely chaffering in the market over rambutans, aubergines, red and green pepper, Chinese oranges, white cabbages, dried fishstrips and red-raw buffalo-meat. The smell rose into the high blue coastal air.