The history of Singapore before the foundation of the modern version of the city by Sir Stamford Raffles in 1819 has been largely ignored. This volume of eighteen articles (with a wide range of original publication dates) looks to rectify this and show that Singapore, because of its strategic location in the shipping route between East and West, was heavily involved in pre-British waves of global trade and colonization.
Rosie Milne talks to Yeow Kai Chai, Director of Singapore Writers Festival.
One of Asia’s foremost historians on the Chinese diaspora, Wang Gungwu now tells his own history in Home is not Here, an account of Wang’s younger days up until his university studies, spanning three countries across Asia.
Anton Chekhov, it appears, was not the first Russian literary luminary to visit Hong Kong. Chekhov had stopped off in October 1890 and wrote about its “wonderful bay”. English-language literature had to wait until Somerset Maugham came through more than a quarter-century later. But Chekhov was beaten to the punch by Ivan Goncharov who stopped by in 1853.
China has developed a reputation for confounding naysayers. Will Doig starts High-Speed Empire with an anecdote of the World Bank castigating Shanghai in 1991 for deciding to build a Metro; the suggestion was that maybe focusing on infrastructure for bicycles might be a better use of resources.
London-based Singaporean Sharlene Teo is currently finishing a PhD at one of the UK’s premier centres for the teaching of creative writing, the University of East Anglia (UEA). Part of her studies focuses on criticism and theory, and her work in this area concerns the representation of Singaporean and Malaysian women in fiction. But her course also requires participants to write a novel, and presumably she has already passed this unit with flying colors, as the novel she wrote to satisfy it, Ponti has already been read way beyond the confines of the UEA faculty office.
Deborah Rogers was an influential literary agent in London. After her death in 2014, the Deborah Rogers Writers Award was established in her honor. Since literary agents thrive on finding talented new authors, the prize was set up to support authors as they finished their first novel. In 2016, UK-based Sharlene Teo won the inaugural prize with an extract from her work-in-progress, Ponti, set in her native Singapore. The finished novel is now published by Picador.