First up, let me explain the title. Selumbar is the Malay word for wood splinter and the novel is so called due to an analogy by one of the characters, likening his life to his feet being pierced deep with a Selumbar. If he pulls it out, he will suffer great pain, and yet leaving it in would only cause the wound to fester and hinder his walking forward.

An innocent encounter between the main character, a much loved and respected modern day ustaz, Razin and a supposed stranger in Razin’s village, Sufi, kickstarts the drama. What unfolds will afflict both their lives in ways neither can expect nor control.

Razin will soon regret their path crossing as the pages unravel into heavy themes surrounding Islam, homophobia, filial piety and brotherly love among mankind.

The book – published by Rumah Lipur Lara –  raises philosophical perspectives on homosexuality based on Muslim teachings, with oft quoted local sentiments about Islam such as the “easiness” of the religion for its practitioners and the almighty mercy of Allah.

These are juxtaposed with the homosexual character in the book trying to come to terms with his identity by seeking counsel from contrasting religious interpretations worldwide.

The book also tackles the universal quandary of the LGBTQ individuals, who are usually subjected to societal villification and family rejection, mainly due to the notion that homosexuality is disgraceful and sinful, without any separation of the people from the act.

With all that said, we must bear in mind that this is a work of fiction and anyone seeking religious guidance should look for proper sources instead of this bold and beautiful Malay drama novel.

The “scandalous” plot is gripping and definitely refreshing when compared to the mainstream plots usually available in the Malay novel book racks.

PLUS POINTS

  • I loved the audacity of the book, which includes a sex scene albeit nothing raunchy that is fap-worthy. (I guess you can take my word for it).
  • The sincere portrayal of Razin and Sufi’s inner battles. These two are the most fleshed out characters in the book.
  • I loved the narative of how covert exchanges between well meaning best friends turned into poisonous fumes for solid friendships, putting it to the test in the form of an overblown misunderstanding. It felt real and relatable. If there is a moral to take away from this story, I think it is a cautionary tale against eavesdropping and violent jumping into conclusions. Perfect illustration of how talking behind your friend’s back tend to wreck their lives, and your own in the end.

MEH POINTS

  • The supporting characters seem to fall into stereotypes or lacked depth. But then again, the book is only under 400 pages afterall, with big font. Perhaps it was the author’s intention to keep the side characters 2D instead of 3D ; in cohesion with the plot’s take on society’s habit of gossip mongering and making cliched or stereotypical assumptions.

FINAL VERDICT

Good enough for a thoughtful train commute to shrink the hours, me thinks.

“Selumbar” is the second novel by writer, Ikmal Ahmad, who also wrote “Velvet”. The book is available for purchase in Kedai Fixi in Petaling Jaya. Additionally, it can also be purchased onlineIf you are a publisher and want us to review a book, drop us an email to editors@eksentrika.com