Long time fans of Lat would have notice the non-too-subtle change in the later editions of his classic “Lat, Kampung Boy”.
Lat has always managed to skirt the fine line of sensitivities in all his work, and Kampung Boy is a definite gem, not only in its rawness, but the total honesty in the way the story is fleshed out.
I’ve lost my original copy, by the way, and was dismayed when I found the changes made in the newer prints.
I’d like to think that it was a conscious move by Lat himself to replace the pages especially that of him returning home with a can full of tin ore, his dad waiting on the stairs of the their humble abode.
Readers can literally feel the disappointment in both father and son in the slapping scene over (if I am not mistaken) a three-page spread.
No one could have done it better.
A very, very powerful showcase of emotional exposition on Lat’s part especially when you take into account the joviality of his (late) father and the equally fun-filled episodes – swimming in fish filled rivers, exploring tin mines etc - involving the growing up cartoonist and his friends in the preceding pages.
Alas, these (slapping scene) pages have been replaced with a “safer” new version of father chasing son all around the kampong. Even the pen strokes were tamer in comparison.
Suffice to say, I didn’t bother getting a copy.
And now we have the Interlok “amendments”.
I must admit that I have not and have no interest in reading the novel, controversy notwithstanding. There are enough books which can occupy my precious few hours of reading time to not expand the list whenever a title crops up in the news papers.
Aren’t we opening a can of authoritarian worms here with this move to amend so-called offending scriptures?
Offensive texts are literally everywhere in the writing world. Choose the right kind of titles and you’re apt to find expletives strewn all over the place.
Would it be morally correct to go in with a black marker to blank these out as to sanitise the work?
Perhaps you could justify the national unity and respect for all communities facet in the amending of the Interlok, but what’s to stop the authorities (if they have not already done so) from doing the same to other books, titles and works deemed offensive?
Where do we stop?
Doesn't the author have a say in this?
And it was only recently that some of us protested the selective nature of our historical text for schools; in how we're publishing only those views which the authorities want to officially recognize.
Aren't we a bunch of hypocrites.