Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Amir Muhammad
By Phan Ming Yen
Heralded as the indie godfather in the Malaysian literary scene, Amir Muhammad is the founder of the publishing house Fixi.
In the three short years since its set-up in 2011, his firm has left its mark in the region and beyond. At the London Book Fair in April this year, it bagged the Bookseller International Adult Trade Publisher Award at the London Book Fair.
At home, Fixi has taken the literary scene by storm by providing a platform for new and young writers who address contemporary issues with an unprecedented freshness and derring-do. Its authors are not afraid of breaking from tradition and to experiment.
In Kuala Lumpur, titles published by Fixi continue to dominate the bestsellers list. In July alone, nine out of the 10 titles on the South-east Asian list at the Kinokuniya's KLCC branch were by Fixi. These included KL Noir, an anthology series about the dark side of Malaysia's capital; Horror Stories by Tunku Halim; Spirits Abroad by Zen Cho and 13 Moons by Ee Leen Lee – the last two of which were launched at the Cooler Lumpur Festival in June.
Aside from the original Fixi which publishes Malay contemporary urban novels, Fixi has three other imprints: Fixi Retro which focuses on out-of-print Malay novels; Fixi Novo that specialises in English-language books; and its latest, Fixi Verso, which focuses on current international bestsellers in Malay translation, such as Stephen King's Joyland and Neil Gaiman's Ocean at the End of the Lane.
Amir is also an acclaimed writer and filmmaker himself. Educated at the University of East Anglia, Amir began his career in the film industry, with his works featured at Sundance Film estival and the Berlin International Film Festival. A full retrospective of his works was screened at the 2008 Pesaro Film Festival, Italy.
1. What are you reading right now?
2. If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play or poem, what would you be and why?
3. What is the greatest misconception about you?
4. Name one living author and one dead author you most identify with, and tell us why.
5. Name one classic novel in either the Western or Asian literary canon which you wish you had published and tell us why.
6. Name one contemporary bestseller which you wish you published and tell us why.
7. What qualities do you most admire in a writer?
8. What is one trait you most deplore in writing or writers?
9. If you could only give one piece of advice to an aspiring writer, what would it be?
10. Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but I…
11. At the movies, if you have to pick a comedy, a tragedy or an action thriller to watch, which would you go for?
12. If your life at present could be depicted as a film soundtrack, which film soundtrack would you choose and tell us why.
13. What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
My least favourite is probably "ASAP" as people who end their e-mails with "please reply ASAP" invariably end up being a pain in the "asap" to work with.
14. What is the one thing you would like to change most about the Malaysian literary publishing scene?
15. Although Malaysia has a publishing scene that is now more vibrant than before, there are still a number of classics which are difficult to locate or have high asking prices in the used book market. For example, if I recall correctly, I recently saw a copy of Ahmad Murad Nasruddin's Nywa di Hujung Pedang going at over RM100. If you could reprint one out-of-print Malaysian classic, which would it be and tell us why.
16. If you have a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soirée, and why?
17. What would you write on your own tombstone?