by Desmond Kon


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

That is the question. Writing is terrible work. Your closest human companion is the guy in the mirror you’re sick of. The job doesn’t pay. In fact, you become really poor – and for what purpose? To wrest from life some nugget of uncelebrated truth. You feel like you’re wasting your time. Meanwhile, the authority and people with all kinds of agenda take turns to politicise you, to your detriment. Even some writers, who you’d think should know better, come at you. Then the cycle restarts. So why write? I don’t know!

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

It is practically done. I think I can disclose that my new collection of poems is called The Other Merlion and Friends. This pays tribute to the dead, missing, and invisible heroes of Singapore and is a sequel of sorts to my first collection of verse from 1998, Who Wants to Buy a Book of Poems? Yes, it’s my long-awaited funny book and possibly my last of this kind.

The 5th European Literature Days will be kicked off here with a series of readings, workshops, a concert and an exhibition on May 7:

The events will be held at cultural institutions serving under the embassies of Denmark, Germany, France, and Great Britain, as well as Italy, Israel, Poland, and Sweden.

Recently published Vietnamese translations of European literature will be presented. These include the newly printed Trial by Czech-born Jewish author Franz Kafka, who wrote his novels in German.

Readers will be left wondering if the story of Vinod Rai’s who at the apogee of his life with his vast background and experience is to be judged by the referred case studies alone or he will have a second take, let the unsaid unfold and another volume touching untouched or less touched areas of his life will soon be with them, writes K. K. Srivastava.

Vinod RaiNot Just An Accountant—The Diary of the Nation’s Conscience Keeper
by Vinod Rai
Rupa, New Delhi
Pages-267/ Hard-bound
Price-Rs 500/

Let an anecdote precede the beginning. “It is impossible to clean the kind of clothes we wear today!”  It is Franz Kafka writing from his Trip to Weimar and Junghorn dated 9th July 1912. On 10th February 2010, I communicated this line to a group of my literary friends telling them that I felt it was the crux of Kafka’s diaries and sought their interpretation. Much to my chagrin none responded. Two and half years later on 17th June 2012, one writer named dan zafir enlightened and this is what he says—‘Clothes, I think, are the psychic layers… They were made “pret a porter” by our parents, society, peers, etc…not necessarily in our ‘true size’ As about dirtying them, we got them already dirty, and it is one’s job to clean or change them with ‘clothes’ of one’s true size. Now I have a question for you! Who made the Emperor’s clothes?’ The answer has eluded me thus far.