Singapore Literature in English

In a previous post, I wrote, “I’m… working my way through books about or set in Singapore by Singaporeans.” So far, I’ve read two anthologies: Tumasik: Contemporary Writing from Singapore edited by Alvin Pang and Writing Singapore: An Historical Anthology of Singapore Literature edited by Angelia Poon, Philip Holden, and Shirley Lim Geok-Lin. I’ve also read a number of books by contemporary writers, such as Alvin Pang, Alfian bin Sa’at, Verena Tay, Cyril Wong. (I’m currently reading Sonnets From the Singlish, a collection of 44 poems on love and language, by Joshua Ip.*)

I recently discovered Singapore Literature in English, an incredible annotated bibliography, and am a bit overwhelmed! So, I turn to you. Singapore friends, what “local” works (fiction, poetry, theatre) would you consider canonical**? What texts has a university-bound secondary school student studied?

* Full disclosure: Sonnets From the Singlish was a generous gift from the talented team at BooksActually.

** Yes, I know “canonical” is a problematic term. Run with me here.

(Additional credits: Photograph via BooksActually’s Tumblr.)

5 responses

  1. Hardly canonical, but Ovidia Yu’s “Miss Moorthy Investigates” is a little-known homegrown whodunnit – one of the earliest, if I’m not mistaken.

  2. ST’s First Word series:
    Jan 6 2008 — If We Dream Too Long by Goh Poh Seng
    Feb 3 2008 — Fascist Rock by Claire Tham
    Mar 2 2008 — Gods Can Die by Edwin Thumboo
    Apr 6 2008 — Only Lines by Arthur Yap
    May 4 2008 — Fistful Of Colours by Suchen Christine Lim
    Jun 1 2008 — Foreign Bodies by Tan Hwee Hwee
    Jul 6 2008 — Prospect Of A Drowning by Lee Tzu Pheng
    Aug 3 2008 — Little Ironies by Catherine Lim
    Sep 7 2008 — A Candle Or The Sun by Gopal Baratham
    Oct 5 2008 — The Adventures Of Holden Heng by Robert Yeo
    Nov 2 2008 — Honour And Other Stories by Goh Sin Tub
    Dec 7 2008 — Stand Alone by Simon Tay
    Jan 4 2009 — First Loves by Philip Jeyaretnam
    Feb 1 2009 — One Fierce Hour by Alfian Saat
    Mar 1 2009 — Heartland by Daren Shiau
    Apr 5 2009 — Gone Case by Dave Chua
    May 3 2009 — The Coffin Is Too Big For The Hole by Kuo Pao Kun
    Jun 7 2009 — Emily Of Emerald Hill by Stella Kon
    Jul 5 2009 — Love Is Not Enough by Leong Liew Geok
    Aug 2 2009 — The Shrimp People by Rex Shelley

  3. Alfian Saat’s Malay Sketches, Edwin Thumboo’s Ulysses By The Merlion, and Isa Kamari’s One Earth (a translation of his Malay novel, Satu Bumi).

  4. Descendant of the Eunuch Admiral by Kuo Pao Kun. Incisive commentary on our immigrant status too. How can we be descendants of a castrated hero of the seas?