Malayan Memories is a by-product of Sir Richard Olof Winstedt’s cumulative efforts in studying the social life and customs of early 20th century Malaya. The author, Sir Richard Winsted, held a variety of educational roles in Malaya, including that of being the first president of Raffles College. Through his interactions with the locals, he honed his language skills in Malay. He also observed how the locals behaved and listened to their accounts of their lifestyles, traditions and beliefs. It is likely that some of these interactions and accounts made up the 12 short stories found in Malayan Memories.
One of the stories, “Timah’s Passion” recounts the life and demise of a beautiful 15 year old Malay girl who married a 50 year old man. In another story, “Hamlet” describes the author’s observation of a locally staged production of Hamlet then that seemed bizarre to him due to the liberties taken.
These 12 stories bring to our attention topics such as superstitious beliefs, eastern treatment options for illnesses, family honour, face-saving behaviour, working and living conditions and social roles. Malayan Memories gives readers a chance to peek into the lifestyles and folklore in 20th century Malaya.