Scholarly works considering traditional Malay letters from a literary point of view are scarce. In this book, classical Malay literature of the 16th through the 19th centuries is viewed in the context of more than a millennium of medieval Malay letters. In the first part, based on a reconstruction of the literary self-awareness of the Malays, a model is offered of classical Malay literature as an integral, hierarchically arranged a ‘anthropomorphic’ system, the impetus for its formation being the Islamization of the Malay world. A study of the origin and evolution of all genres of Malay literature, as well as an analysis of some exemplary works with special reference to their poetics, provide the factual basis for the suggested model. The second part of the book treats of the aesthetics of classical Malay literature, first and foremost the central notion of the sphere of beauty, ’the beautiful’ (indah). Its divine origin, internal properties-such as the diversity of manifestations, perfection, orderliness-capable of arousing love and thus producing a harmonizing effect on the human psyche, are considered, as well as the synthesis of Hindu-Javanese and Muslim components in Malay literature aesthetics. This is the first study that aims to present a coherent view of the entire body of classical Malay literature. In a novel and stimulating approach, the organizing principles of Malay literature are seen as a system in which the various genres are allotted their proper place. æ Vladimir I. Braginsky (1945) is a Russian scholar with degrees from the Institute of Oriental Studies in Moscow (Ph.D 1972, D.lit. 1982) in Malay and Indonesian literatures. His major publications (in Russsian) are Evolution of Classical Malay Verse (1975), A History of Malay Literature, 7th-19th Centuries (1983) and Hamzah Fansuri (1988). He is head of the Department of Interdisciplinary Studies of Asian Cultures in the Institute of Oriental Studies and was formerly Professor of Malay Literature at Moscow State University. In 1992-1993 he was a researcher fellow at the Netherlands Institute for Advanced Study (NIAS) in Wassenaar.