By Mitali Chakravarty

Singapore Literature Prize 2018
Singapore Literature Prize 2018

On 19th June, 2018, the Singapore Book Council (SBC) announced 50 shortlisted titles for the Singapore Literary Prize (SLP) 2018.

Twelve judges, including prominent writers like Isa Kamari and Alfian Sa’at were part of the panel of judges who whetted English, Chinese, Malay and Tamil entries by Singaporean or Permanent Resident authors before shortlisting the books. Awards will be given out in twelve categories in a ceremony on 6th  August 2018. The categories span the four official languages of Singapore and three genres — fiction, creative non-fiction and poetry.

shortlisted authors 2018
Singapore Literature Prize 2018 – shortlisted writers

As the SBC turns fifty this year, Mr William Phuan, the Executive Director, announced that the event would be opened to the public for the first time. Admission will be free by registration at http://slp2018ceremony.peatix.com/

William Phuan
Singapore Literature Prize 2018 – William Phuan

A number of outreach events have been planned to create awareness among the public, including talks by shortlisted authors in bookshops, schools and National Libraries. From July 16th to September 8th , former SLP winning titles will be displayed at the Bras Basah National Library on level 9 in an exhibition titled “Celebrating Our Writers: The Journey of Singapore Literature Prize”. Besides reaching out to people on social media, readers will also be encouraged to guess the winners of the awards as well as choose the best cover designs, added Mr Phuan.

By Aminah Sheikh

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Let’s get down to brass tacks. Why do you write?

Because eventually we will all be reduced to nothing – and that is something I refuse to accept, or believe.

Tell us about your most recent book or writing project. What were you trying to say or achieve with it?

Epigram Books released my first novel, Kappa Quartet, in September 2016. It was a conscious effort on my part, I believe, to have my first novel encapsulate who I was/am as a writer. For instance I believe in the essential premise of irrealism – that a gap exists between the infinite possibilities of the universe and the limited ability of our consciousness to perceive or understand it – and that a writer of fiction really shouldn’t be viewed as an oracle, or a sage, or provider of solutions. But I did, on a basic level, want to explore the various ways in which people learn to live and cope with feelings of emptiness; it was the baseline on which I built my stories and characters for the novel.

Describe your writing aesthetic.

As an observer of the world I believe in immanence; as a member of human society I believe in interconnectivity, diversity, and the power of shared experience; as a craftsman of words I lean towards simplicity, a lightness of touch, and a good clip, a steady pace.

Who are your favorite authors?

My favourite authors are Margaret Atwood, Michael Cunningham, and Haruki Murakami. And I will always be in awe of Stephanie Ye, David Mitchell, and Yoko Ogawa.

The only dead person I will credit as a favourite is Willa Cather, for Death Comes for the Archbishop.

What’s the most challenging piece of writing you’ve attempted? Tell us why.

It’ll have to be my current project. Titled Lovelier, it’s a book-length project that intertwines poetry with short stories to tell a complete but broken tale about a cast of millennials. They’re creative, ambitious, and yet constantly prone to failure, and so I adore them. I could have gone with a simpler structure, of course – I could have gone with one or the other, poetry or prose – but that’s just me. The pieces are all there, and I’m still waiting on the decision to cut half of it away or keep them all.