23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Huzir Sulaiman
© Hartwig Klappert

Huzir Sulaiman

Huzir Sulaiman was born in Kuala Lumpur, the capital of Malaysia, in 1973. He originates from the Indian part of the population of the multi-racial state and studied at Princeton University.  In 1996 he founded the now firmly established Straits Theatre Company in Kuala Lumpur. The theatre enjoyed early success with Sulaiman’s first piece, the one-man show »Lazy Hazy Crazy« (1997). With the second production, »Atomic Jaya« (1998; Engl: Atomic Big Success) Sulaiman confirmed his reputation as one of the leading and most interesting playwrights of Malaysia and Singapore.  Rich with tempo and punchlines, the satire of political aspirations at becoming a nation of great power and the craze of nuclear armament was compared to Kubrick’s »Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Love the Bomb«. Some of the fourteen roles in the play – among which can be found a megalomaniac politician, an unscrupulous soldier, a scrupulous scientist and a criminal arms dealer – was performed by the author himself during the third production.

»The Smell of Language« (1998), Sulaiman’s third theatre piece, is a postmodern play which questions the role of the author and focuses on the scandalous events in the Malaysian state of Malacca in 1995, when the Chief Minister was alleged to have raped a fourteen-year-old girl who was then taken into police custody. The grotesqueness of the misuse of power reached its peak when an opposition politician inaccurately labelled the latter incident as »imprisonment« instead of »detainment« – a choice of words which led him to be thrown into jail himself. Sulaiman wrote six more plays in swift succession.  The most recent ones appeared in 2002, in his anthology »Eight Plays«. That same year Sulaiman was commissioned by the Singapore Arts Festival to write a piece about the Japanese occupation of the country during World War II.  The resulting work, »Occupation« (2002), depicts this period through the prism of the author’s own grandparents – and links the national trauma of occupation with an episode in which the grandmother falls in love with her future husband and becomes »occupied« by this love.

Sulaiman, who also writes for film and television, moved to Singapore in 2003.  He has worked as an actor and director and was one of the co-founders of Checkpoint Theatre, based there, of which he is now Joint Artistic Director.  Following the completion of an epic historical play about Singapore’s failed attempt to gain independence from Great Britain in 1956, Sulaiman is currently at work on a novel about the artistic counterculture in Malaysia and Singapore at the turn of the millennium.  The author holds at present the 2005 Writing Fellowship by the National University of Singapore and The Arts House. He lives in Singapore.

Translator: Rainer G. Schmidt

© international literature festival berlin


Eight Plays
Kuala Lumpur, 2002

Übersetzer: Rainer G. Schmidt