Malaysian author’s debut novel longlisted for Dublin Literary Award 2023


Viji Krishnamoorthy’s debut novel '912 Batu Road' has been longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2023. Photo: Clarity Publishing

Viji Krishnamoorthy’s debut novel 912 Batu Road has been longlisted for the Dublin Literary Award 2023.

The award is presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English.

The Dublin Literary Award offers the world’s most valuable literary prize of €100,000 (RM463,104).

The award, which promotes excellence in world literature, is sponsored by Dublin City Council, and administered by Dublin City Libraries. This year's selection features 70 books nominated by 84 libraries from 31 countries.

Viji's 912 Batu Road was nominated by Perpustakaan Negara Malaysia (National Library of Malaysia).

"This novel was chosen for its interesting history and patriotism of Malaysia and Malaysians. It displays how Malaysia is a harmonious country that embrace multiracial aspects," reads a description from the library.

The book, published by Clarity Publishing, details the story of two Malayan families through the devastation of WWII and the early 2000s when their descendants carry on a secret love affair that threatens to tear both families apart.

“History isn’t only about war heroes and victors and losers. It is stories of the indomitable human spirit of ordinary people going about their everyday lives who contribute in small and yet significant ways. It is these human stories of empathy and kindness and love for one’s fellow people that really are the beacon on very dark and grim days. Their compassion softens the harsh and cruel realities of war,” says Viji, who has Indian Tamil and Chinese Hokkien parentage.

The book tells the story of two Malayan families through the devastation of WWII and the early 2000s when their descendants carry on a secret love affair that threatens to tear both families apart. Photo: Clarity PublishingThe book tells the story of two Malayan families through the devastation of WWII and the early 2000s when their descendants carry on a secret love affair that threatens to tear both families apart. Photo: Clarity Publishing

While the main characters in 912 Batu Road are fictional, the Ipoh-born author wove real Malaysian heroes into her book, which took nearly 15 years to see the light of day.

“Sybil Kathigasu was a nurse and her husband Dr Abdon Clement Kathigasu had a clinic on 74 Main Street, Papan, Perak where they nursed and supplied medical aid to the resistance fighters during the Japanese Occupation. Gurchan Singh was a policeman who distributed leaflets under the code name ‘Singa’ containing actual news of the war to counter the Japanese propaganda,” says Viji.

“Young Malaysians must know of the contribution of these unsung heroes as they are invisible in our history books today. It was important to shine a spotlight on them and acknowledge not just their contribution but patriotism and love for their country,” she adds.

According to publisher Rosalind Chua, “The interest and excitement over Viji’s novel has been amazing and despite the difficulties of publishing it during the MCO we’ve already reprinted the book twice.

"I hope that her nomination will spark more interest globally in Malaysian talent and also encourage more Malaysians to write. We have so many stories to share with the world and so many different perspectives to offer global readers.”

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