CLEO’s Coolest Creatives: Nazir Harith Fadzilah of Tintabudi

The discovery of Tintabudi will always be the highlight of my first visit to the Zhongshan Building, in Kampung Attap. Stumbling upon it as I was waiting for another fellow artist, this humble independent bookstore was not only an introduction to the creative ecosystem in the building, but also served as a reminder (and a big reason why) that print isn’t dead.

Founded by Nazir Harith Fadzilah, who writes and translates in his free time, reading and collecting books was a passion that was seemingly enough, until he went to study Engineering in Melbourne. There, he was introduced to a literary culture that deepened his passion for the books, and thus Tintabudi was created. In this edition of CLEO’s Coolest Creatives, we spoke to the man, who in no small part, is making books cool again.

NAZIR HARITH FADZILAH, 30, FOUNDER OF TINTABUDI

Living in Melbourne for a short while brought to my attention to the importance of bookshops, and also to a large extend public library, to a locality. It is easy to have an access of either buying or borrowing a good book in most developed countries. Apart from the existing, well-established chain bookshops available here in KL, independent bookshops fits perfectly into the role of being a communal space, where people can discuss and share ideas, talk and read books. It’s not just a place where people buy and sell books. It’s a cultural space.

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The first secondhand bookshop I’ve been to was a bookstore at the corner of Swanston St and Grattan St, just one tram station away from The University of Melbourne, which now has closed down. They had quite an interesting selection of books. The shop owner was very helpful and accommodating, and it’s easy to tell that these people love doing what they do. During my stay in Melbourne I’ve had this ritual on going around most of the secondhand bookshops around Melbourne on Sunday and Wednesday, checking out what new books that had arrived and sometimes just to have a chat with the shop owner.

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The thing about Malay literature is there’s always something enigmatic and romantic about our mother tongue that keeps bringing me back to its source of brilliance and splendour in expressing feelings and emotions. Each segment of literature conveys the subtle human experiences that couldn’t be captured by another language. Going back to Malay literature is like going for a journey through the linguistic experience of the people writing and spoken in that language. 

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When I first started, all of the books were from half of my own collection. My interest was always on literature, philosophy and arts, and that’s how I navigate in selecting most of the books at Tintabudi. I also received quite a lot of suggestions from our customers which I really appreciate.

On the topic of favourites, I like Snow, by Orhan Pamuk. It’s about a lonely political exile returning back to his home country. As for authors, my favourite would be Prof Syed Naquib Al-Attas. I think he’s one of the most brilliant Muslim scholars of this century for his exposition on the Metaphysics of Islam and the challenges posed by the Western worldview.

The part I enjoy most about what I do is looking for books, especially those out-of-print ones! It’s always a satisfying feeling discovering a book that is hard to find at a reasonable price, or at a bargain. I also do enjoy talking to customers who come in to our shop; you learn a lot just by talking to random people and it gives you perspective.

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Everyone at all age can start somewhere rekindling their love with words and literature is the play of words that gives one pleasure upon reading it. To be absolutely truthful, I’ve started reading seriously quite late as compared to a lot of my peers. What we can do is provide people with access for good reading material. Encourage them to read even if it’s a short online article. It doesn’t have to be a book. It takes just one suitable book (which coincide with your liking) to hook you up to reading. Remember, literature generally, is just a matter of taste and inclination. And taste can grow and inclination can change.

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Hopefully in 5 years, we are still in the business! We are trying to look for ways to make our business more sustainable since getting in a book retail business is quite tough and challenging. We also would like to contribute to the local society by doing events such as book reading (which we currently we do every fortnight), talks, workshops and others. Tintabudi should be one among the many bookshop in KL which hopefully will grow. I think it is important for the city to have a whole lot more of these independent bookshops for a more vibrant cultural climate.

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