Our very own Diploma in Social Sciences in Gerontology (GEM) lecturer is now a published author! Fairoz Ahmad has recently released his collection of short stories, titled Interpreter of Winds, with Ethos Books. He invites readers to step into the world of talking animals and winds, of murder and kampongs in the tropics, of questions with no answers.
Interpreter of Winds was inspired by the diverse and enchanting history of various Islamic societies, but are little known or forgotten. Fairoz cited the keris, a dagger which was common in the Malay-Indo world. The keris had a sophisticated history – combining advanced knowledge of metallurgy with religion and superstition, because it was a culmination of hundreds of years of evolution with keris-makers refining and passing down the skill (and belief systems) to the next. What Fairoz did was to take these facts, these aspects of history, and wove them into his stories, to reflect on broader themes. For example, the story ‘The smell of jasmine after the rain’ began about a murder of a witch with a keris in pre-Independence Indonesia and ended off as a meditation on old age. In another story, a dog and a camel travel to the desert to find a cure for the dog’s master, and they converse about faith and the meaning of winds. The nature of winds matters a lot to the desert Arabs as it affects their survival. The conversations on winds then became a proxy about the meaning of faith.
Fairoz wrote Interpreter of Winds as he was concerned about the representation of Muslims in general – of being radicalised and detached from society. It is not true. They have worlds that are charming, even enchanting. There are worlds where people just stumble along or worlds where people are confused about what life means. We have worlds where people does silly things, and of worlds where people are afraid of change, and so on. Fairoz wanted to share these varied worlds to others through his short stories and hope that readers will come to realised that many of our worlds are interconnected.
Ethos Book (the publisher) submitted Interpreter of Winds for the 2020 Singapore Literature Prize. Fairoz hopes that if something were to come out of this, it would be that more people will become aware of the book and the message it tries to share. For him, the act of reading enables him to do two things: to understand himself better, and to understand another culture and another world better (through empathy). Kafka said, “A book must be an axe for the frozen sea within us”. Reading should awaken and stir something inside of us.
So, head to TP Library and get yourself lost in Interpreter of Winds.