Saturday, 18 November 2017

StoryDrive Asia 2017

StoryDrive Asia is a conference dedicated to exploring new forms of collaboration, and developing new business models, across media and publishing boundaries in Asia. It is organised by the Frankfurt Book Fair, in collaboration with regional partners, and it is attended by professionals working in the print, audio, film, and TV sectors.

Thursday, 16 November 2017

Backlist books: Noli Me Tangere by José Rizal

Backlist books is a column by Lucy Day Hobor that focuses on enduring, important works from or about Asia.

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




Imagining Asia


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

SWF WRITER FOCUS: Elaine Chiew interviews Singapore-based Filipino writer Victor Fernando Ocampo

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
The panel entitled Aram in the Age of Cultural and Cross-Border Conflicts, moderated by TV presenter Greta Georges, opened to a room so packed, it was standing three-deep in the back.  But the panel appeared to have gotten mired in the thicket of translation of the meaning of 'Aram'.  Using the English translation of Aram as 'the good life', the panelists Héctor Abad, Koh Buck Song, and Suki Kim, whose credentials range from human rights memoirist (Abad), literary editor, non-fiction writer of 30 books and poet (Koh) to undercover investigative journalism (Kim) tackled it from three countries’ perspectives – Colombia, Singapore and North Korea, respectively. 


Sunday, 5 November 2017

Singapore Writers Festival: Day 2 Highlights by Elaine Chiew

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

Singapore Writers Festival: Opening Night with Irish focus by Elaine Chiew

Opening Ceremony, Yeow Kai Chai. Courtesy of Elaine Chiew
With every year that it’s held, the Singapore Writers Festival (SWF) gets bigger, more ambitious, and more prominent – this year featuring close to 500 writers (of all stripes – from poets to playwrights, non-fiction writers to musicians of the written word) and from around the world, with Ireland being the country of special focus.  

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

Eastbridge Books by John Ross

Camphor Press is a UK-based publisher specialising in English language books about East Asia, particularly Taiwan.  The company recently acquired an American company, EastBridge, and is now making its titles available to a new readership. John Ross, one of the co-founders of Camphor Press, here explains…

Thursday, 2 November 2017

Contemporary voices: State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang


In her regular column Contemporary voices Elaine Chiew explores books and authors making waves around Asia, and beyond. Here she discusses State of Emergency, by Jeremy Tiang, from Singapore.

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.)