Asian Books Blog is based in Singapore. During the Singapore Writers Festival, (SWF) which is on now, and runs through until November 8, daily posts will offer a flavour of events in the Lion City.
So: Day 9...
Migration and refugees are much in the news at the moment, making it especially interesting to attend Alter Nations, a panel discussion between two poets nomadic in spirit, and a roaming novelist.
Macedonian poet Nikola Madzirov was 18 when the collapse of Yugoslavia prompted a shift in his sense of identity. He talked about home as a place to leave. He mentioned that everybody in Macedonia lives close to a border. His reading included a poem in Macedonian, and a poem titled, in English, I Don't Know, which perhaps reflected the fluidity of our own knowledge of our own identity.
Indian poet Ranjit Hoskote's work addresses the question of a continually self-renewed, self-critical cosmopolitanism emerging in the space of transcultural encounter. He talked about the experience of alienation as a positive force for creative work, including the work of investigating the self, as well as a negative experience. He read from his collection Central Time.
Singaporean novelist Josephine Chia talked about her experiences of being a Singaporean living in England, her mixed racial heritage, including both Chinese and Malay influences, and the importance of shared history in promoting community identity. Her remarks on history provoked brief discussion of the pitfalls of nostalgia, and the dangers of using literature to promote one or another view of history as part of a nation-building project.
Questions from the audience included one about how we can define our identities without falling into stereotype, this prompted open-ended discussion of both concepts: identity, and stereotype.
The panel was moderated by Singaporean poet Alvin Pang, who sent the audience on their way with a question to ponder: if place can be seen as accommodation, in all senses, what then is our personal obligation to place?
To which I'd add my own question: do we, in fact, have any obligation at all to place?
Over to you...