PUTRAJAYA: Writer and poet Datuk Dr Zurinah Hassan, who goes by the pen name Haniruz, was today conferred the National Literary Award, making her the 13th national laureate and the first woman in the country to receive the honour.
The award was presented by Education Minister Datuk Seri Mahdzir Khalid on Tuesday night.
With the award, Zurinah also received a cash prize of RM60,000, national recognition scroll and sponsorship of RM500,000 to publish 50,000 copies of her works which will be bought by the government for distribution to schools, libraries and government departments and agencies.
On Oct 13 last year, Mahdzir said Zurinah was chosen based on her contribution to the development of literature and impact on the spread of knowledge at the national and international levels.
Zurinah shot to prominence with the poem ‘Sesayup Jalan’ in 1974 and then went on to write short stories, novels and poems, some of which were translated into Japanese, French, Spanish and Russian.
Her collection of poems called ‘Menghadap ke Pelabuhan/Facing the Harbour’ was published by the Malaysian Institute of Translation and Books in 2010.
Awards that she had won include the Putera Poetry Award 1984, SEA Write Award 2004, ASEAN Poetry Award (Sunthorn Phu Poet Laureate) 2013 and the Perdana Literary Award from 1971 to 2003.
In her speech, Zuriah said she was honoured to have received the award and hoped that more laureates could be produced to boost the literary industry in the country.
“Keep on writing literary items that can be followed and liked by many in a bid to help build a stronger generation. May we have young writers with sustainable writing capability based on traditional wisdom,” she said.
She also thanked her husband, Mohamed Saaid Abdul Manap, who had taken over a lot of chores in order to provide her with the space to write, as well as to other national laureates for their guidance.
Meanwhile, Mahdzir in his speech, called for all quarters to intensify efforts to promote local literary books to the international markets.
He said this would inadvertently uplift the status of Malay language.