Reviewed by Mitali Chakravarty

state of emergency

 

Title: State of Emergency
Author: Jeremy Tiang
Publisher: Epigram Books, 2017
Number of pages: 245

Jeremy Tiang’s State of Emergency won 2018’s Singapore Literature Prize (SLP) for fiction. Kate Griffin, one of the judges for the award, wrote in an article, “Erasing Histories” (https://nationalcentreforwriting.org.uk/article/erasing-histories/): ‘State of Emergency, Jeremy Tiang’s beautifully written first novel, highlights a lesser known side of Singaporean history, exploring the leftist movements and political detentions in Malaysia and Singapore from the 1940s onwards, through the stories and memories of an extended family.’

Focused mainly within the local and Malayan Chinese community, the Communist movement found refuge in the jungles of Malaysia. The novel traces the development and then the quelling of this movement through the stories of three generations of Jason Low’s extended family. Jason’s wife, Siew Lee, chooses Communism over her family and leaves for the jungles of Malaya, partly to save herself and partly to live by her beliefs. Jason loses his sister in the 1965 Konfrontasi terrorist bomb blast in MacDonald House where she worked in a bank. The Konfrontasi was an Indonesian reaction to oppose the colonial decision for the formation of a separate Malaysia (of which Singapore remained a part till August 1966). These political movements in the ASEAN rip through the fabric of the Low family, tearing it apart.  Though his daughter continues to work as a Singapore government official, his son leaves him to immigrate to the United Kingdom and Jason Low finds himself in a ‘C’ class geriatric ward.

Visitors to the Children’s Literature Festival 2015 will have the opportunity to explore locally produced children’s literature.

Themed “One World, Many Stories”, the festival showcases local literary works and hopes to inculcate the culture of reading amongst Malaysians, especially children.

The festival will feature many fun activities for children, including batik painting, kuda kepang dances, a doodle wall and colouring.

An English anthology of works by Taiwanese and Malaysian writers was launched in late January this year to introduce more literary works from the two countries to English-speaking readers.

The “Anthology of Short Stories Malaysia-Taiwan” features 12 short stories by six Taiwanese and six Malaysian writers, Sarah Hsiang (項人慧), secretary and assistant editor at the Taipei Chinese Center International P.E.N., said Tuesday.

AmirMuhammad230314Established in 2011 by writer and independent filmmaker Amir Muhammad, Buku Fixi has become a rare success story in the publishing industry. Its Malay-language urban contemporary novels are a fixture on local bestseller lists. Written in the pulp fiction, noir, horror, crime and thriller genres, many of the novels are brimming with slang and bahasa celupar, making Buku Fixi a distinctive brand of books.

Since its inception, Buku Fixi has branched out into other aspects of publishing, with several other labels under the Fixi umbrella. These include Fixi Retro (which publishes out-of-print Malay books), Fixi Verso (translations of bestsellers), Fixi Novo (English language books) and Fixi Mono (non-fiction).

Amir tells me that he was inspired to create Buku Fixi after attending a local book awards ceremony. According to him, nine out of ten of the Malay fiction nominees had either the words ‘rindu’, ‘kasih’ or ‘cinta’ in their titles.

Clunky sentences, gratuitous metaphors and forced similes, bad grammar – they all combine to grate on the nerves, and give the book an unfortunately amateurish feel: The Star

KLNoirNo Arrests for the Wicked (Editor Eeleen Lee, Fixi Novo) is the book’s cheesy subtitle, but this doesn’t mean that bad deeds go unpunished. Indeed, there are no happy endings for anyone, but the price of crime is never anything as conventional as the rope or 60 years with no hope for parole.

Retribution is invariably more creative, poetic even, and much more gruesome than one would suffer if left in the hands of the legal system, as grubby as their paws might be. Hey, it’s noir so there can be no mercy, no silver lining.