I remember getting a copy of this from my Uncle who was working at the New Straits Times at that time. We were living in Kuala Krai, Kelantan and he had come down for the holidays and brought this book with him. (probably a couple of years after its release in 1989). I wouldn’t say I immediately fell in love with it or even properly understood it. (probably cause I was around 10 at that time). I read it a few times again in my teens and it grew on me.
It’s a story of a kampung boy who moves to the city to work as a writer. In the process he falls in love with Faridah. This is a somewhat semi-autobiographical of Lat.
The original work was in Malay and the English version was translated by the famous, Adibah Amin.The one thing which looks a bit odd in the English translation is that the text is in print whereas the original Malay version is in Lat’s own writing.
Don’t get me wrong. The translation was good but the publisher could have at least chosen a font close to Lat’s handwriting so it looked better. You can view the comparison below:
Here is a video of Umapagan Ampikaipakan giving a talk on Mat Som at the Cooler Lumpur Festival back in 2016. It is quite insightful and he goes quite in-depth with this book.
They even made Mat Som into a movie back in 1990. I’ve been looking around for it in DVD but I don’t think it’s available. (If you do have a copy of it, do let me know please!)
Here is a short clip of the movie made available on Youtube:
You can pick this book up at most bookstores. Both versions are priced at RM19.90. I’ll recommend the original Malay version for this.