The Malayan Trilogy

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The Malayan Trilogy
The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy
1993 W.W. Norton edition
Author Anthony Burgess
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre Colonial novel
Publisher Heinemann
Published 1956 (Time for a Tiger)
1958 (The Enemy in the Blanket)
1959 (Beds in the East)
Media type Print (paperback)

The Malayan Trilogy, also published as The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy in the United States,[1] is a comic 'triptych' of novels by Anthony Burgess on the decolonisation of Malaya.

It is a detailed fictional exploration of the effects of the Malayan Emergency and of Britain's final pull-out from its Southeast Asian territories. The American title, decided on by Burgess himself,[2] is taken from Alfred, Lord Tennyson's poem Ulysses: 'The lights begin to twinkle from the rocks: | The long day wanes: the slow moon climbs: the deep | Moans round with many voices. Come, my friends, | 'Tis not too late to seek a newer world.' (ll. 55-57)[2][3]

The three volumes are:

The trilogy tracks the fortunes of the history teacher Victor Crabbe, his professional difficulties, his marriage problems, and his attempt to do his duty in the war against the insurgents. For plot details, see the pages on the component titles Time for a Tiger, The Enemy in the Blanket and Beds in the East.


Time for a Tiger[edit]

Malay College Kuala Kangsar, on which Mansor School is based.

Victor Crabbe, a resident teacher at the Mansor School, seeks to tackle the threat posed by a boy Communist who appears to be conducting clandestine night-time indoctrination sessions with fellow students. But the headmaster, Boothby, scoffs at Crabbe's warnings.

Nabby Adams, an alcoholic police lieutenant who prefers warm beer ("he could not abide it cold"), persuades Crabbe to buy a car, enabling Adams to make a commission as a middleman. This is despite the fact that Crabbe will not drive because of a traumatic car accident in which his first wife died and he was the driver.

Crabbe's marriage to the blonde Fenella is crumbling, while he carries on an affair with a Malay divorcee employed at a nightclub. A junior police officer who works for Adams, Alladad Khan, (who has a secret crush on Fenella) moonlights as a driver for the couple. Ibrahim bin Mohamed Salleh, a (married) gay cook, works for the couple but is being pursued by the wife he has fled from after being forced to marry her by his family.

The threads of the plot come together when Alladad Khan drives Crabbe, Fenella and Adams to a nearby village, along a route where they face possible ambush by Chinese terrorists. Due to unforeseen circumstances, they return late to the school's speech day and an unexpected chain of events follows that transforms the lives of all the main characters.

The Enemy in the Blanket[edit]

Crabbe is made headmaster of a school in Dahaga, in the east coast of Malaya (in an introduction to the trilogy, he identifies the sultanate as Kota Baharu in Kelantan[4]).


  • Victor Crabbe
  • Fenella, Crabbe's wife
  • Abdul Kadir, Crabbe's hard-drinking and foul-mouthed teaching colleague at the school, whose every sentence includes the words "For fuck's sake!"
  • The hard-up lawyer Rupert Hardman, who converts to Islam in order to wed a domineering Muslim woman, 'Che Normah, for her money. He later bitterly regrets it and tries to return to the West in order to escape the marriage.
  • Talbot, the State Education Officer, a fat-buttocked gourmand whom Victor Crabbe cuckolds
  • Anne Talbot, Talbot's wife, a wanton adulteress
  • The womanising Abang of Dahaga, who is also a devotee of chess and who aims both to seduce Crabbe's wife and to purloin his car
  • Father Laforgue, a priest who has spent most of his life in China and longs to return there but is prevented from doing so, having been banished by the Communist regime that came to power in Peking a decade earlier
  • Ah Wing, Crabbe's elderly Chinese cook who, it emerges, has been supplying the insurgents with provisions
  • Jaganathan, a fellow teacher who plots to supplant and ruin Crabbe
  • Mohinder Singh, a shopkeeper trying desperately, and failing, to compete with Chinese traders

Beds in the East[edit]

The title is taken from a line spoken by Mark Antony in Antony and Cleopatra 'The beds i' the east are soft; and thanks to you,/That call'd me timelier than my purpose hither;/For I have gain'd by 't.'[5]


  • Victor Crabbe, headmaster and education officer
  • Robert Loo, a brilliant boy composer whose musical career Crabbe seeks to further
  • Rosemary Michael, an 'eminently nubile' Tamil with 'quite considerable capacity for all kinds of sensuous pleasure'
  • Tommy Jones, a beer salesman. 'That's my line. I sell beer all over the East. Thirty years on the job. Three thousand a month and a car allowance and welcome wherever I go.'
  • Lim Cheng Po, an Anglophile lawyer
  • Liversedge, an Australian judge who harbours a secret resentment against the English
  • Moneypenny, an anthropologist studying the hill tribes and living in the Malayan jungle. He has lost touch with civilisation to the extent that he believes it is lethal to laugh at butterflies and "now regarded even a lavatory as supererogatory".



  • Burgess, Anthony The Malayan Trilogy. (London: Vintage, 2000) ISBN 9780749395926. With an introduction by the author. Contains all three novels in one volume.
  • Burgess, Anthony The Long Day Wanes: A Malayan Trilogy. (New York: W. W. Norton, 1993) ISBN 9780393309430. American edition.

Works of criticism[edit]

  • Bloom, Harold (ed.) Anthony Burgess. (New York: Chelsea House, 1987) ISBN 0-87754-676-2.
  • Lewis, R. Anthony Burgess. (London: Faber, 2002) ISBN 0571204929.
  • Yahya, Zawiah Resisting Colonialist Discourse. (Bangi: Penerbit Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia, 1994) ISBN 978-9679422962.
  • Kerr, Douglas Eastern Figures: Orient and Empire in British Writing (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2008) ISBN 9789622099340. pp 191 – 196.
  • Erwin, Lee 'Britain's Small Wars: Domesticating "Emergency"', in The Edinburgh Companion to Twentieth-Century British and American War Literature, (eds.) Piette, A. and M. Rawlinson (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2012) ISBN 9780748638741. pp. 81–89.


  1. ^ Brand, Quentin. "Unorientalized". Open Letters Monthly. 
  2. ^ a b Ingersoll, E. G.; Ingersoll, M. C. Conversations with Anthony Burgess. University of Mississippi Press. p. 89. 
  3. ^ Tennyson, Alfred (1989). Ricks, Christopher, ed. Tennyson: A Selected Edition. University of California Press. p. 144. 
  4. ^ Burgess, Anthony (2000). "Introduction". The Malayan Trilogy. Vintage. p. ix. ISBN 9780749395926. 
  5. ^ Shakespeare, William (1974). "Antony and Cleopatra". In Evans, G. Blakemore; Kermode, Frank. The Riverside Shakespeare. Houghton Mifflin. p. 1360. ISBN 0395044022.