K.S. Maniam

K. S. Maniam was born under the name Subramaniam Krishnan into an Indian family in Bedong/Kedah, Malaysia, in 1942. His childhood bore the mark of the everyday life of the Indian minority group in Malaysia.  Following his father’s wish that he should have an education that would fit his cultural background, he attended a Tamil school. After a year however his father gave in to his pleas and let him attend an English school, so that during his adolescence K. S. Maniam was strongly influenced by British and Western culture.  In the 1960’s he completed his training as teacher at the Malayan Teacher’s College in Great Britain.  He began to write poems, some of which were published in ‘The Sunday Times’. After his return, he worked as a teacher for several more years, before beginning studies for a degree in English at the University of Malaya in 1970.  He worked on poetry written in English in Malaysia and Singapore for his MA.  Then followed a long lasting job at the University of Malaya, where he was Associate Professor of Literature and Creative Writing until 1997.  Inspired by the new postcolonial literature, he began to focus more intensely on his own writing in the mid 1970’s. K. S. Maniam writes in English.  His first short story, ‘The Eagles’, appeared in 1976, and in 1981 his first novel ‘The Return’, which is largely autobiographical. The young Ravi, from a third-generation Indian immigrant family in Malaya, feels lost in the conflict between cultures. In an effort to avoid demands to preserve his grandparent’s ancestral culture, as well as the expectations of the Malaysian society for cultural and linguistic assimilation, Ravi flees to an English school.  There he learns not only the language, but also the mindset and customs of the former colonial power, and this increasingly distances him from his family.  The question of cultural identity in an immigrant society prevails in other works by K. S. Maniam.  In addition to numerous stories and three novels, the other two being ‘In a Far Country’ (1993) and ‘Between Lives’ (2003), he has written a number of plays.  He received the Raja Rao Award for his Outstanding Contribution to the Literature of the South Asian Diaspora in New Delhi in 2000.  His most recent volume of short stories is entitled ‘Faced Out’ (2004). K. S. Maniam lives in Subang Jaya/Selangor, Malaysia.

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