For the record - Jul 2016
A list of recently published Singaporean literature, with some gossip
By Stephanie Ye
In this column, we list all Singaporean literary titles in English that have been published since the last issue of QLRS. Let us know about corrections, omissions, or titles for consideration: email us at the usual address. We reserve the right to reject publications we feel are inappropriate for this column.
The two poetry collections this quarter have not been lost, but found in translation:
Dans quel sens tombent les feuilles by Toh Hsien Min (Editions Caractères, 134 pages, EUR 30). From our very own editor-in-chief comes this bilingual offering: the title translates to Which way the leaves fall, and the collection comprises poems from Toh's three previous titles (Iambus, 1994; The Enclosure of Love, 2001; and Means to an End, 2008), as well as 29 previously uncollected pieces. Published by the Paris-based éditions Caractères, the English-language poems are translated into French by Canadian-French poet Jacques Rancourt, with proofreading by Toh himself (yes, he speaks French [badly – ed.]). The collection was launched at the Marché de la poésie festival in Paris last month, and no doubt our Francophile editor was glad for yet another excuse to visit the land of wine and cheese. Who says poetry makes nothing happen?
Me Migrant by Md Mukul Hossine (Ethos Books, 68 pages, SGD 12). Written in Bengali by Md Mukul Hossine, translated into English by Fariha Imran and Farouk Ahammed, and transcreated by Cyril Wong, Me Migrant features the poems of a 25-year-old Bangladeshi who came to Singapore in 2008 to work in construction. Back home, Mukul has published a novel and a poetry collection; here, he labours as one of the many migrant workers who keep Singapore's industries going. Understandably, a sense of isolation, longing and lament pervades his poetry. But as Wong also observes in an editorial note: "The life of a migrant worker has its certain challenges. To his credit, Mukul had striven to leave out their more predictable banalities and focused on poeticising emotions or projecting them into the realm of the mythic and the imagined universal. I have done my best to mirror the intriguing combination of Mukul's unpretentious voice and his artistic aspirations through my transcreation."
The Epigram Books Fiction Prize is one of the biggest prizes around for an unpublished manuscript, with its sophomore edition promising $25,000 to the winner and $5,000 to each finalist. If you're interested in putting your wordsmithing to the test, you can't go wrong by first checking out the two latest publications from Epigram Books, namely the prize's inaugural winner and one of the finalists:
Now That It's Over by O Thiam Chin (Epigram Books, 272 pages, SGD 24.90). From one of Singapore's most prominent short story writers comes this prize-winning debut novel. Now That It's Over bagged O $20,000 in cash, a publishing contract, and many newspaper headlines. Centred on the Indian Ocean tsunami of 2004, the novel follows two Singaporean couples who are vacationing in Phuket when the earthquake strikes. The narrative alternates between the aftermath of the disaster and the past lives of the various characters. Besides being thought-provoking and heart-rending, this novel also has lots of sex in it. Like, lots. What's not to like? O's first publication with QLRS was the short story 'Third Eye' in our January 2009 issue, and his most recent was 'Campfire' in April 2016.
Sugarbread by Balli Kaur Jaswal (Epigram Books, 280 pages, SGD 24.90). Jaswal bagged a six-figure, two-book deal with HarperCollins at the London Book Fair earlier this year. Though the first book under the contract – with the intriguing title Erotic Stories for Punjabi Widows – will only be published next year, in the meantime readers can check out Sugarbread, which was one of four finalists for the Epigram Books prize. The protagonist is ten-year-old Punjabi-Sikh girl Pin, who faces racial and societal prejudices at school, and at home is faced with the mystery that is her mother. Jaswal's debut novel was Inheritance (2013), published in Australia (where she was then based), and which led to her being one of four writers named a Sydney Morning Herald Best Young Australian Novelist in 2014.
From a publisher farther afield comes Sarong Party Girls by Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan (William Morrow, 320 pages, USD 17.22). Not to be confused with the 1990s comic books by Jim Aitchison and Theseus Chan, this debut novel by the US-based Tan has already received some buzz in Western media for its use of Singlish. Marketed as "Emma set in modern Asia", our heroine is Jazzy, a young Singaporean woman whose goal is to marry an ang moh and spawn a Eurasian child, otherwise apparently known as a "Chanel baby". But perhaps Jazzy will eventually get over her colonial hangover? One lives in hope. A former journalist, Tan has previously published a memoir (A Tiger in the Kitchen, 2011) and edited a short story anthology (Singapore Noir, 2014).
Mixed and miscellaneous
Ethos Books offers two chapbooks of prose and poetry by young writers, published under its LIVEpress mentorship initiative for budding writers and editors. Unhomed, edited by Lim Qing (44 pages, SGD 9.35), collects works that centre on the titular theme, while Crossing Universes, edited by Frederick Cheng, Lim Qing and Ng Kah Gay (68 pages, SGD 9.35), features works relating to travel. The latter title also features contributions by established authors Aaron Lee, Genevieve Wong, Jerrold Yam, Theophilus Kwek and Verena Tay.QLRS Vol. 15 No. 3 Jul 2016