Book Review: Harris bin Potter and the Stoned Philosopher by Suffian Hakim

My darling husband gifted me this book for Christmas and I smiled like the Cheshire Cat when I saw it. It was one that had been on my TBR list.

As you would have guessed, it’s a parody of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone. I am a bit of a fan of J.K. Rowling’s Potter series of books – the heart of the stories she tells is why I think her books have such a wide appeal. I was hoping that such a parody would not miss that. And it certainly did not disappoint.

In keeping with the Singapore flavour of Harris bin Potter, I shall attempt to write some of this review in Singlish.

I tell you I super like this book. This Suffian Hakim, he very funny writer. No wonder it is number Uno in The Straits Times bestseller list. Hakim use proper Queen’s English when he writing but you can still feel so much Singapore flavour cos he use words like baju kurung, sial lah, relek in a corner, and many others.

He follow quite close to the Harry Potter one; he go to the school, here called Hog-tat-Halal-what, then got the bad guy – this one is called Lord Oldermat and he want to make everyone who show any Malay-ness no more magical. Then got the principal of the school, he called Pakcik Dollah. Got that talking hat, here called a songkok. Of course, got the fat cousin and family. Got all the professors – all with very funny names, I let you read yourself. Harris bin Potter has to live under the kitchen sink, worse than the Harry Potter one. People with no magic are called kosongs. Oh yes, definitely have the best friend, Ron and the girl, here called Her-Aku-Punya-Lutut – you can Google translate to find out why she called that. Don’t want to spoil the fun for you. Actually, in the book got footnote to tell you why also.

But I tell you, huh, I so long not live in Singapore, plus I never study Malay at school, I had to look at dictionary to know what some of the Malay words mean. When I understand already, I think, wah, this Hakim guy quite clever, no? Many times I LOL.

He also have some deep meaning in his writing; he even say in the book, in Chapter 11, “There are several things that many Malay people do not know. That is not to say that Malay people are predisposed to not know things – that would be a horribly racist statement to make, even if the author himself is Malay.” He use this story to talk about some stereotypes that people sometimes think about Malay people. It is not to fight anything, just to show it exists. But I hope that this sort of thinking will be no more soon. You read this interview Hakim gave to l’Officiel Singapore – good to know his thinking behind his writing.

So that’s the book review. I hope this has proven to be helpful in convincing you to go out, buy this book and read it. If you’re Singaporean, I know you will enjoy it and you would have also supported a local talent. If you’re not Singaporean, there might be some head-scratching moments, but nothing that a quick question to a Singaporean or Google won’t be able to help you with, plus it’s a good way to get know a bit of Singaporean culture.

If you have read it, do share your thoughts about this Singaporean version of a famous book.

Happy Reading!

syc