Interview with Graham McEune, Author of Upcountry (Published!)

GRAHAM MCEUNE overstayed in Asia for 15 years, but he is still welcomed, especially after capturing the lives of Malaysians so humorously, sometimes explicitly, in his book, Upcountry: Adventures & Misadventures in Malaysia. JEE WAN catches up with him after a book reading.

GRAHAM MCEUNE, who was born on a pig farm in rural England, left the comfort of his Wellington boots for a budget journey to Southeast Asia.

He stayed for 15 years.

Upcountry is the result of this extended trip. His fresh and witty observations about Malaysia—from our languages and our cultures to our food and our animals—are a joy to read. One of my favourite lines in the book is: “The Orang Asli (the indigenous people) wear very little, and used to wear nothing at all until the road was put in. Even today, it is not uncommon to see a woman with her milk-secreting glandular organs swinging freely or a man out hunting with two blowpipes (the one he made himself and the one God gave him).”

How can you not laugh at that?

Throughout the book, he brings the reader along on a journey filled with all the adventures and misadventures you could wish for, such as a weird encounter with a sinseh (a traditional Chinese physician), getting lost in the jungle, some scrapes and near-scrapes on Malaysian roads, and the time he ate some petai and woke up the next morning thinking he had “picked up something ‘orrible” and was dying.

How would you describe yourself in less than 10 words?
I am young, handsome, witty, intelligent … and prone to exaggeration!

What’s the one thing you know about Malaysia that you think other Malaysians may not be aware of?
That most people outside of Asia don’t know where Malaysia is.

What are you reading at the moment?
On my bedside table are Che Guevara—A Revolutionary Life by Jon Lee Anderson, Holidays in Hell by PJ O’Rourke, and The Smile Method—How to Avoid Dentures by V. Gardiakos.

If you need or want a good laugh, read the complete interview at:
(Yes, it is published on Quill’s website! hehe)


Quill is a magazine on books and the reading life in Malaysia. Since 2003, Quill has been recommending the best and upcoming titles in bookstores. The magazine supports Malaysian as well as international authors, providing exclusive interviews and coverage of events.

Famous Malaysian authors that have graced the pages of Quill include Whitbread-winning Tash Aw, Man Booker Prize-longlisted author Tan Twan Eng, Orange Prize-longlisted Preeta Samarasan and Chiew-Siah Tei. International authors such as JM Coetzee, John Boyne, Hari Kunzru, Miguel Syjuco and Mohamed Hanif have also been interviewed. Local personalities such as Tourism Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Ng Yen Yen endorses Quill for encouraging the reading habit among Malaysians.

For the aspiring writer, Quill has columns on developing the writing craft, written by established authors. Find reviews of noteworthy fiction and nonfiction, and business trends currently discussed in professional books. There are travel, food, foreign, and lifestyle columns of interest to everyone.

In 2008 and 2009, Quill sponsored exclusive literary issues of the magazine for the Ubud Writers & Readers Festival. Quill also collaborated with the National Arts Council of Singapore to produce an exclusive magazine for the Singapore Writers Festival 2009.
Quill is free to MPH Readers’ Circle members. Non-members may purchase it at newsstands nationwide.

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