‘A Malay knight speaks the white man’s tongue’: Muhammad Haji Salleh on translating the self and one’s own literary tradition

Harry G Aveling

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Sasterawan Negara Professor Emeritus Muhammad Haji Salleh (b.1942) is a major Malay poet and literary scholar. Mainly educated in English and writing his early poetry largely in that language, he made a decision during his late twenties to write his further poetry only in Malay. His poetry now exists in English, Malay, a small number of Malay translations of his own works first published in English, and a much larger number of his own English translations of works that were first published in Malay. His scholarship has focused on the aesthetics of the classical Malay literary tradition, and he has recently published an English translation of the epic, the Hikayat Hang Tuah. This article is based on Anthony Pym’s proposal that ‘the central object’ of translation history should be ‘the human translator’ (1998: ix). It will study Muhammad’s development as a bilingual scholar, poet, translator and self-translator, working within specific literary and academic fields. As a translator, Muhammad has moved from a ‘formal’, literal, style of translation to a freer, more ‘dynamic’, style. Muhammad’s translations of his own poetry are freer in form but strict in the translation of content. His translation of the classical epic, the Hikayat Hang Tuah, follows the original patterns of phrasing but is free in its use of extended paraphrase and a mock-medieval English rhetoric.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)389-408
Number of pages20
JournalIndonesia and the Malay World
Issue number130
Publication statusPublished - 2016


  • Dynamic translation
  • formal translation
  • Hikayat Han Tuah
  • Muhammad Haji Salleh
  • self-translation

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