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Writing a New Society is the first extended study of the novel in Malay and is a groundbreaking study of the relationship between social change and literary practice. The book traces the emergence of the genre from the 1920s and, drawing on 26 of Malaysia’s best-known novels, argues that the form was developed as a vehicle for transforming Malay ideas about themselves and their society. Virginia Hooker focuses on the underlying anxiety about racial identity, which underpins much of Malay writing and examines how ethnic identity is constructed and expressed. In a radical break with the traditional notion of Malay society as being totally dependent on the Sultan, the book shows how the novelists centre their writings on descriptions of ‘ordinary’ Malays, and present the household as the primary site of change. Here the novels develop and describe a ‘private’ sphere where Malays who previously had no rights begin to exercise their initiative. The concept of social equality which inspires the novelists subverts many of the themes of modern Malay politics.