Words Over Borders: Trafficking Literatures in Southeast Asia
by Muhammad Haji Salleh, Universiti Sains Malaysia
Published in Asiatic, Vol. 3, No. 2, December 2009
This paper traces the paths of literary works that cross linguistic and cultural borders, and have been adopted into the receiving cultures. Their sources may be as far away as India, or as close as Java and the Malay Peninsula, but have spread and later become well-loved local stories and poems as they provide genres and forms to be emulated and enjoyed. From India came the Ramayana, which travelled to Thailand, Cambodia, and Java, and from Java to the Malay Peninsula and Patani. From the Malay Peninsula and⁄or Sumatra the pantun marched into the other islands of the Archipelago, was brought to Sri Lanka and also South Africa, and in the 19th century to Europe. The romantic Javanese Panji story caught the imagination Malay and Patani performers who took it to Ayuthia. These texts were thus translated, transformed, and adapted in a wide literary area, resulting in not only various literary performances but also in related arts.