Creativity is allowing yourself to make mistakes. Art is knowing which ones to keep. Musings from someone who sees stories everywhere.

Sunday, December 08, 2013

Nazi Goreng by Marco Ferrarese; book review

Association with Kitaab, an exhaustive website on Asian writing in English, gives me the opportunity to read books from other Asian countries which are not accessible in India. Marco Ferrarese' racy novel Nazi Goreng gave me ringside view of the world of young Malay fanatic skinheads.

This exciting and engrossing novel explores racial animosity and urban crime. Steeped in local colour, this very Malaysian story has wider relevance in today’s world of the global village. Urban conglomerates the world over are rapidly becoming cultural melting pots. People are migrating to far corners of their country and abroad in search of a better job and life. This trend can heighten the insecurity of indigenous populations, who feel threatened as they perceive outsiders to be vying with them for finite resources and jobs. Urban crime and racial tensions are the inevitable result.

Foreigners migrate to Malaysia in search of a better life. Even educated people like Ngoc and her friends leave their home in Vietnam.   The math is simple but compelling. In a corporate office in Vietnam, Ngoc ‘s university degree in Economics will fetch her only half the pay that she earns as a waitress in Malaysia.  The author perceives Malaysia’s multi-racial and multicultural society as akin to the wholesome local dish, nasi goreng, which is a delicious mix of varied and nutritious ingredients. The book’s title is a play on this, and the racial bigotry which can ruin the beautiful cultural symphony.
In Nazi Goreng, the author skilfully draws us into the story of small-town boy Asrul’s metamorphosis from innocent victim of street violence, to a neo-Nazi skinhead out to brutalize foreign immigrants, who is sucked into Malaysia’s underworld of drug trafficking and crime. ...

The author brings the setting to life. From the underground heavy metal music movements to the criminal underworld, to the world of poor working class immigrants, the details and descriptions are vivid. At some places though, the descriptions are overdone. “Mr Porthaksh came closer and they could see his face more clearly as the shadows were erased by the lamp’s rays, forced to retract into his pores like mad vampires escaping the sun’s light.” Elsewhere in the same overdone vein, “ his Adam’s apple rock(ed) up and down like a horse with rabies.”
The plot is well-crafted, tracing Asrul’s metamorphosis into a hardened criminal, and the exciting climax. There are a few parts though, which could have been smoothened out. For example, it is implausible and awkward that drug dealer Tan Moe and his moll Siti take several pages to explain their operations to the captive Asrul.
On the whole, this is an interesting and racy read, which will appeal to readers everywhere.

My detailed review is published in Kitaab

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