PETALING JAYA: The image of an aide to Education Minister Maszlee Malik on the cover of a novel by National Laureate Usman Awang has drawn criticism from the author’s eldest daughter, who demanded an explanation from publisher Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (DBP).
Haslina Usman was referring to the cover design of a new print of Usman’s novel “Tulang-Tulang Berserakan” by the government publisher, which featured Maszlee’s press secretary Zulfikri Zamir.
Haslina questioned if there was an attempt by interested parties to exploit her father’s reputation by using DBP, which comes under the education ministry’s jurisdiction.
“What is the meaning of such a design? It’s irrelevant,” Haslina told FMT, adding that it had nothing to do with the subject of the novel, which is about Usman’s experience serving as a field force officer during the Emergency.
“Why has DBP published a novel by a national laureate in this way? I demand an immediate explanation,” she added.
When contacted, Zulfikri declined comment.
“I don’t know. It’s better to ask DBP directly,” he told FMT.
DBP director-general Abang Sallehuddin Abang Shokeran defended the cover design, and denied any hidden motivation.
“There is no specific reason. It so happened that it was suitable,” he said, adding that Zulfikri himself may not be aware that his picture was used on the cover of the book.
Abang Sallehuddin, however, said he would take into account the flak over the cover design.
“This is the first edition, for the coming editions, we will consider the views of various parties.”
The cover design was conceived by Mutalib Usman, a former business associate of Zulfikri who founded a publishing house.
When contacted, Mutalib admitted that the choice of Zulfikri’s picture was deliberate.
He said he was pressed for time to complete cover designs for books under the Siri Malaysia Membaca series featuring the works of national laureates.
Mutalib said by using pictures of his friends, he would also save on royalty costs.
“I chose that picture (Zulfikri’s) because it was suitable,” he told FMT.
He said there was no intention to portray Zulfikri as part of Usman’s legacy.
He considered criticisms of the design on the social media as a blessing in disguise, adding that it was good to see Malaysians talking about books.