I must thank a few individuals present in the audience or in spirit, who have beeninvisibly vital to the book’s production: Phang Ming Yen and R. Ramachandran, whogave me advice, and the publishers of Ethos Books, Fong Hoe Fang and Chan WaiHan. Perhaps, atmospherically speaking, holding this Singapore launch at theChangi Prison Museum and Chapel might have been perfect, but the Old ParliamentHouse is also good. To lead now, by means of provocation, into our time with our 4guest panelists who are contributing writers to
, I wish to share justone stray thought. I want to admit how, for some time now, I have come to suspectthat a few words used to enrich discussion – what will no doubt emerge in our speaking later – are really useless for the end of having a discussion.Maybe you already know what I mean here. Words like “political” and “ideological”seem to be construed these days as more about wanting or resisting change rather than about reason and fairness. Words like “dissident” and “radical” on the one sideand “status quo” and “mainstream” on the other side are used to suggest numbers,who is in the majority and who is not, rather than describe what is more just, morecompassionate, or more sensitive. These words have become labels in opposingcamps to close down thinking and questioning, to reinforce divides, and to celebrateinflexibility and “do-nothingness”. I find myself often wondering whether anyoneactually remembers that all we want, at some level, is the same thing, the chance touphold what is humane for others and for our own sake.But, without further delay, let me present to you our illustrious guest speakers thismorning:
4 PanelistsYeng Pway Ngon
, also known to Chinese speakers as
Ying Pei An
, is a CulturalMedallionist. He is a novelist, a poet, a playwright, and a critic, and his works havebeen translated into English, Malay, and Dutch. He has received the National BookDevelopment Council of Singapore Book Award for his novel
A Man Like Me
and theSingapore Literature Prize for
Trivialities About Me and Myself
, the first volume of his poems transcreated into English by Alvin Pang andGoh Beng Choo, was published last year.Yeng contributes “The Misdelivered Mail” to our book.
is a poet-playwright-director who works in both English and Tamil. Aprevious winner of the SEA Write Award, he has published 3 collections of poetryand 11 collections of plays to date. The collections of plays,
, have received the Singapore Internationale awards, and his plays areperformed internationally. Two of his plays,
, are still banned frombeing performed in Singapore. He is the artistic director of the theatre group AgniKootthu.Elangovan contributes “Nocturne” to our book.
works in Malay and is the author of 11 books to date. He has writtenacross a range of genres, and his works have been translated into English andMandarin. He won the Golden Point Award before in both the short story and thepoetry category as well as the Anugerah Persuratan Prize in 2007.2