The sly wit and silky eroticism of the verse genre known as romantic
syair were staple dishes on the Southeast Asian cultural menu, especially in the Malay, Islamic regional centres. Yet very few examples are available in translation for the many readers interested in the genre, and attempts by academics to account for their powers of attraction are even rarer. This book is the authors effort to convey the seductive qualities of the sexiest of the romantic
syair, the Poem of Bidasari. Few Malay works have been loved and disseminated to the extent the
Syair Bidasari has. It was translated in other languages of the region like Makassarese and Maranao and adapted for the Malay theatre and cinema.
Three tasks are attempted in the book: a transliteration into Roman characters of one of the surviving Malay manuscripts of the poem, a translation of that manuscript into English, and an inquiry into the poems virtues. The intertexts drawn upon in the analysis reveal the authors conviction that understanding of traditions of
kesenian rakyat (popular arts) such as
pantun and the Malay theatre provides the background that allows the text to signify most powerfully.
Julian Millie hails from Melbourne, Australia, and is currently writing a doctoral dissertation in the Research School of Asian, African, and Amerindian Studies (CNWS) at Leiden University. The groundwork for this book was performed with the goal of obtaining a masters degree from Monash University, Melbourne.