I have wanted to write about the figure of Shannon Ahmad (SA). I only know SA through his work Shit. I bought this book on the roadside in Petaling Jaya when I was a Master’s student at Universiti Malaya in 2001.
SA’s work that had the most significant impact on me was adalah Kesasterawanan: Kepolitikan, kealaman, kedirian, dan Kemanusiaan [Literature: Politics, Nature, Self, and Humanity] (1992). I bought this book in Kelantan when I was traveling around Malaysia. When the soles of the feet lift each other, I came across this simple book. I bought the book without thinking, even though it was in Malay.
Interestingly, this SA book is that these four keywords have been my area of study for the last ten years. I study politics, understand the cosmos, finish work on the self, and always can about human concepts. This book had a powerful influence on my further studies, though I rarely refer to it.
SA opened my eyes to how literature functions in politics, nature, self, and humanity. SA’s style of speaking is indeed very spontaneous. In Shit, I made my heart skip a beat because the vocabulary and metaphors used by SA indeed target a particular regime. I still remember how he made the abbreviation PM which is recognized as the Prime Minister, but in the novel, it was written Pukimak! One of the quotes from the Literature is:
Politicians only see humans from one angle, namely the demands of the abdominal bones that are found between the genitals and breasts (p.7).
I admire literary groups because they can discuss things with their imagination, which sometimes includes inner language which cannot be mixed with pleasantries. SA again confiscates how he writes without further ado in this literature book. He tells his story in his hometown, Kedah.
One of my favorite chapters is Literature and Self-reliance, which tells the story of SA’s childhood as a dirty village boy. This story applies not only to SA but also to me in Acheh. Usually, we get a pure disease, itching, scabies, shiny hair oil, and bathing with well water and river water. If there is rain, then it is an unrivaled share. All these defilements made me understand myself. The SA inside describes the experience of his petty problem being called Shannon the Dirty Boy. Such insults are inherent in SA. I also remember the many insults from my childhood, such as that experienced by SA in Kedah. Inappropriate calls keep popping up.
Shannon writes how the experience as Shannon was a dirty boy:
Apparently all the impurities that became my personal and my village’s personality later became one of the important foundations in my Literature now. That is the real me (p.127).
While reading this chapter, I knew that many great men are dirty village boys. Those who are familiar with nature sometimes learn from nature. They are familiar with the forest and can survive in the forest. My experience at the edge of the forest in Gucci (Kec. Sawang) has shown that what Shannon described is true.
Shannon also defended the villagers as follows:
Do not say the villagers are stupid and do not know anything. The wisdom and prudence of this life are evident in the… villagers approaching it. They are the wise ones. They are the ones who are knowledgeable. They are the ones who can be our teachers if we take a little effort to reflect on their lives that are implicit and many that are hidden (p.131).
As soon as I delved into the study of anthropology, I just realized that what Shannon revealed above was true. The villagers are extraordinary in their knowledge. If the villagers no longer show their knowledge and wisdom, then their privileges of the villagers will decrease. When I studied culture, I understood that “many hidden” is a lot. I find similarities in this book in Indonesia with Hamka’s work, namely Lembaga Budi. I highly recommend that Shahnon’s book be read.
Another lesson I took from Shannon’s work was when he explained the concept of intellect:
“Intellect in the sense of rational and scientific intelligence to dare to defend the truth and expose the false will produce a subtle yet critical sensitivity.”
This definition I have used since the year I bought this book, which is 2007. At that time, I was doing research in a neighboring country. When anxiety theoretically occurs, this expression from SA becomes the trigger and drive to persist on the words “reveal.” So the intellectual task is to “reveal” what is encountered during the process of rationality.
I am not a group of writers. There is not a single literary book I have written. Nevertheless, literary books usually stimulate me to think when I find a dead end. At least I read of Shahnon’s figure. The writers can express themselves and cover up anything that is not. The use of symbols, metaphors, and diction by writers sometimes makes me drift into the realm of their thinking.
The experience of reading Shahnon’s book provided a foundation for thinking for me. Shannon’s book is not scientific, but the result of reflection or contemplation is lined up line by line in each chapter of this book. That line of lines convinced me that Shannon could enlighten others through the results of his contemplation. Shannon’s bitter life experiences, his style of narration, in-depth analysis, and Shannon’s reading and literary knowledge have given me a solid impetus to continue to think about the four themes in this book: politics, cosmology, self, and humanities.
Again, do not assume that the literary work has no power if the writer has already had a terrible inner experience. I do not have complete work of Sharon. Reading his two books, I can guess that this National Literary Man is a great writer. For my literary study, I focus more on the writers in Malaysia. However, some literary works in Indonesia are no less interesting to explore. Hopefully, a short article about Shannon Ahmad will answer the readers’ curiosity about my works, who always ask who had a powerful influence in producing various books. There is also nothing wrong if readers who have a collection of Shannon Ahmad can help me add a collection about this National Literary.