Journey to the West: He Hui, a Chinese soprano in the world of Italian opera, by Hong Kong-based author and journalist Melanie Ho, is the first biography of China's first prima donna - arguably the most successful Western opera singer to come out of China. Soprano He Hui has made some of the biggest roles in Italian opera her own, including the title role in Madam Butterfly. Her story is one of East meeting West, and of East and West living alongside each other. It begins in her hometown of Xi’an, China, and moves on to Verona, her adopted Italian home. Along the way to stardom He Hui overcomes challenges, and rejection.
Melanie Ho here offers a brief overview of He Hui's journey.
Friday, 24 November 2017
Saturday, 18 November 2017
Thursday, 16 November 2017
This post is about Noli Me Tangere (aka The Social Cancer), an idealistic novel written to expose the injustices suffered by Filipinos at the hands of the theoretically poor, chaste and obedient Spanish friars during the colonial period.
Written in Spanish, published in Berlin in 1887 and banned in the Philippines, it nevertheless reached its target audience. Although the author seems to have preferred reform to armed revolution, violent radicals made him their figurehead, and at the age of 35 he was martyred for the Filipino nationalist cause.
See below to find out what you need to know to decide whether you should read Noli Me Tangere, or what you should know about it even if you never do!
Monday, 13 November 2017
Final SWF Roundup: Imagining Asia, The Absurdity in Everyday Life; Hope and Resistance in the Age of Dystopia. Reflections by Elaine Chiew
|Panel on Imagining Asia, featuring (L to R) Tash Aw, Madeleine Thien, Boey Kim Cheng and |
University of London Professor of Humanities Roger Kain, courtesy of Elaine Chiew
Rabindranath Tagore had a construct for Asia; he called it “a continental mind of Asia.” Asia thus was conceived as more than geographical landmass and the surrounding oceans, but even mapping it geographically can prove tricky as its Western borders are conjoined with Europe. Asia as a continent also encompasses a multitude of languages, cultures, ethnicities, religious practices, economic pursuits and livelihoods. Keep in mind also the strategic configuration of powers and militarism which accompanied the formation of ASEAN, APEC and various other regional affiliations, as well that the turn-of-the-century ideological conception of Asia as envisioned by Okakura Kakuzõ in Ideals of the East was as a foil of the East against the encroachments of the West, already forecasting Japan’s military ambitions at that time. Thus, returning to the question of “imagining Asia” and specifically how Asian writers like Tash Aw, Madeleine Thien and Boey Kim Cheng imagine Asia, already implicate deeper framing issues of how long we will remain locked within this semantical conception of Asia as a singular, cohesive entity, Asians who are immigrants to the West as writers with fragmented identities, and all of this understood with reference to the West.
Friday, 10 November 2017
For every writer, once in a rare while, a book comes along and really shakes you up, where (instead of that height/ceiling metaphor) I’d like to say instead, the floor drops on which you thought the legs of fiction stood. Victor Fernando Ocampo’s The Infinite Library and Other Stories did that for me. The ideas that power this collection are not just incredibly imaginative, they also weave a hybrid crossing through magical realism, allegory and science fiction, that ‘synchronicity’ Ocampo mentions in one of his stories. Rendered in prose that bears a unique voice, and also dark subtle humour in surprising turns of phrases, this collection is an invitation to a labyrinth for thought.
First an introduction to Victor:
Victor Fernando R. Ocampo is a Singapore-based Filipino writer. He is the author of The Infinite Library and Other Stories (Math Paper Press, 2017) and Here be Dragons (Canvas Press, 2015), which won the Romeo Forbes Children’s Story Award in 2012.
Monday, 6 November 2017
Singapore Writers Festival Day 3. Aram and World Conflicts/Sci-Fi and the Fate of Humanity by Elaine Chiew
|Aram in the Age of Cultural and Cross-Border Conflicts, courtesy Elaine Chiew|
Sunday, 5 November 2017
|Between Brexit and the Deep Blue Sea Panel, courtesy Elaine Chiew|
Okay, Brexit. Day Two. This time from the Irish perspective, entitled Between Brexit and the Deep Blue Sea: The Irish Perspective on a Divided Europe. The panel of Cat Brogan, Claire Keegan and Paul McVeigh, as moderated by avuncular host, Neil Murphy, raised many interesting points to consider. Brogan and McVeigh are from Northern Ireland, whereas Keegan is from the Republic of Ireland and Brexit impacts them differently.
Saturday, 4 November 2017
|Opening Ceremony, Yeow Kai Chai. Courtesy of Elaine Chiew|
The theme of Aram (which means “to do good”) is the first ever Tamil theme for the festival and takes its inspiration from the widely revered literary work in Tamil – Thirukkurai; aptly, this year SWF aims to focus on ethical quandaries and moral conundrums. Lo, how “particularly pertinent in a world [of]…increasing…fragmentation and polarisation, where it gets harder for people to agree to disagree,” as guest of honour, Ms Sim Ann, the Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth and Ministry of Trade and Industry says.
Friday, 3 November 2017
Thursday, 2 November 2017
Henry James apparently said, “It takes a lot of history to produce a little literature.” One might find this proven true in Jeremy Tiang’s debut novel, State of Emergency, which cuts across swaths of history starting from the Batang Kali massacre in Malaya by Scots Guards in 1948, wending through key episodes of Communist suppression in Singapore, such as the Hock Lee Bus Riots (1955), Operation Coldstore (1967) and Operation Spectrum (1983), the detention of a Catholic priest and various church members in 1987, fetching up to current day Singapore (the MRT system that’s like “something out of science fiction” and Tiong Bahru likened to Hoxton, London.)