Sunday, January 20, 2008

Mr Wilson's Old Boys probably a good title for an article I shall write about my experience addressing the old boys of Malay College on the subject of their old teacher John Anthony Burgess Wilson. I hadn't anticipated the scale of the event, though I had a suspicion when we arrived early and saw the banners.Here's one:
Sharon has other photos in her account.
Although I was billed as the main event, the real stars of the show were the old boys who offered some great reminiscences of their encounters with Burgess. It seems that Time for A Tiger, which we all knew was autobiographical, was even more closely based on the actual experiences of Burgess and some of the boys. I particularly liked one anecdote. One boy, who had known Burgess earlier in his school life, discovered when he was head boy that Mr Wilson had published a novel, and that it was set in a school obviously based on MCKK. He asked the head if the school might buy a copy for the library. "Over my dead body!" was the terse reply from Mr Howell, who had been instrumental in ridding the school of Burgess's presence.
I was privileged to be able to speak to a good many folk at this event, including the Malaysian laureate Datuk A. Samad Said and Dr Zawiah Yahya, whose book Resisting Colonialist Discourse has a section on Burgess.
It was clear that interest in Burgess goes beyond the MCOBA. I hope to write more, both here and in more formal style, on Burgess's time in Malaysia. Meanwhile, I should thank once again the MCOBA committee and members for making me and Elaine so welcome. I came away with lots of gifts, including one of those banners. I hope I can manage to visit again in the not-so-distant future, to build on these new acquaintanceships.