Our weekly news update continues in the dawn of this exciting and unpredictable year, but before we get down to business, Asymptote has some very important news of its own (in case you missed it): our new Winter 2018 issue has launched and is buzzing with extraordinary writing across every literary genre! Meanwhile, our ever-committed Editors-at-Large—this week from Brazil, Hungary and Singapore—have selected the most important events, publications and prizes from their regions, all right here at your disposal.
Theophilus Kwek, Editor-at-Large, reporting from Singapore:
2017 ended on a high note as Singapore’s literary community celebrated the successes—and homecomings—of four fiction writers who have gained international acclaim: Krishna Udayasankar, Rachel Heng, JY Yang, and Sharlene Teo. At a packed reading organized by local literary non-profit Sing Lit Station on December 30th, the four read excerpts from their recent or forthcoming work, from Yang’s Singlish-laced speculative short fiction, to fragments of Teo’s novel Ponti, winner of the inaugural Deborah Rogers Writer’s Award. The following weekend, Udayasankar and Heng joined other Singapore-based writers such as Toh Hsien Min and Elaine Chiew for two panel discussions on aspects of international publishing, which aimed to promote legal and ethical awareness among the community here.
Other celebrations in the first fortnight of 2018 took on more deep-seated local issues. Writers, musicians and artists from among Singapore’s migrant community presented a truly cosmopolitan evening of song and poetry to a 400-strong audience that included fellow migrant workers, migrant rights activists, and members of the Singaporean public. Among the performers were the three winners of 2017’s Migrant Workers’ Poetry Competition, alongside Rubel Arnab, founder of the Migrants’ Library, and Shivaji Das, a prominent translator and community organizer. Several days after, indie print magazine Mynah—the first of its kind dedicated to long-form, investigative nonfiction—launched their second issue with a hard-hitting panel on ‘History and Storytelling’. Contributors Kirsten Han, Faris Joraimi and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow all spoke persuasively about contesting Singapore’s official narratives of progress and stability, and the role of writers in that truth-seeking work.
“What is the Burmese word for cockroach (kar-chwa)?”
Auntie Moe Moe interrogated in a mixture of Mandarin and Hokkien dialect. My brother glanced at me haplessly as I rummaged through the repository of my memory, biting my lips as my live-in domestic helper, nanny, and aunt tapped her feet impatiently.
There it was. “Po heart.”
The romanization under my childish scrawl appeared in my head, and I triumphantly recited the two syllables hiding beneath my tongue. READ MORE…
Epigram Books is a Singaporean independent publisher best known for the middle-grade series The Diary of Amos Lee, translations of Singapore’s Cultural Medallion winners, and new editions of out-of-print classic Singaporean novels. Epigram Books also publishes children’s picture books, plays, graphic novels and cookbooks.
Nearly fifteen percent of Epigram Books’ list is works in translation and its list of picture books, the Stories from Around The World series, features contemporary titles handpicked by Publisher and CEO Edmund Wee. Most recently, Epigram Books translated The Little Kangaroo by Guido van Genechten (from Dutch) and Hurry Up, Slow Down by Isabel Minhós Martins and illustrated by Bernardo Carvalho (from Portuguese) to English.
I spoke to Wee in Epigram Books’ Toa Payoh office.
How did Epigram Books’ Stories from Around the World series start?
Epigram Books wanted to introduce English-language books that were not books from the U.S. or the U.K. to Singaporean readers.
Once I started looking at books published in other languages, I discovered so many good ones! Obviously, I couldn’t bring them all to this market, so I selected a few, found translators in Singapore, and released our first titles. READ MORE…
Remember Isle-to-Isle? Chief executive assistant Berny Tan and Sher Chew’s collaborative data visualization and experimental reading project based on Jules Verne’s The Mysterious Island? (Now say that three times fast!). Well, the yearlong project is going strong, and the two collaborators reflected on their first five weeks with Mr. Verne in the Parsons Journal for Information Mapping. In this fascinating read, they delve into the trials of imagining the novel in map and diagram form.
For all you D.C. and Austin theatergoers: drama editor Caridad Svich’s Spark will receive its world premiere at theTheater Alliance, Anacostia Playhouse, on September 4–28, 2014, in Washington, D.C., under Colin Hovde’s direction. Likewise, her play Guapa will be produced at the Austin Community College-Rio Grande Campus on September 25–October 5, 2014 in Austin, TX, under Tomas Salas’s direction.
As the guest artist for Asymptote’s summer issue, Singaporean visual artist Robert Zhao Renhui contributed our cover image and illustrated 15 texts in the Fiction, Nonfiction, Drama, and Latin American Fiction Feature sections. I interview him about this experience, as well as the relationship between image and text in his art practice.
I’ve been following your trajectory for quite a few years, but it’s safe to say that the Asymptote summer issue is presenting your work to an audience that is largely unfamiliar with your practice. How would you explain your art, and the Institute of Critical Zoologists, to our readers?
I am interested in both photography and nature, so in my work, I use photography to investigate our dialogue with nature. The Institute of Critical Zoologists (ICZ) is an umbrella concept under which I create and present my work. The meaning of the ICZ takes shape with each of my projects and exhibitions, which create different realities and fictions.
Could you describe the process of creating/selecting images for this issue?
There was a tension between choosing images that were too literal a representation of the text, and pictures that encapsulated a very personal connection to the text that regular readers may not get. My guiding principle was that my images should be in a jazz-like dialogue with the text, and occasionally surprise the viewer. I submitted a few pictures for each essay, leaving it up to the journal to do the final selection. In some cases, I didn’t know what was chosen until the issue was published. READ MORE…
Singapore has one of the world’s lowest homicide rates, but much like its partner in (low) crime, Iceland, it’s fertile ground for noir stories. Launched this month, ten years after the release of Brooklyn Noir, is Brooklyn-based Akashic Books’ newest title in its bestselling series of Noir anthologies, Singapore Noir, edited by the Singaporean writer Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan, a former staff writer at the Wall Street Journal and author of A Tiger in the Kitchen: A Memoir of Food and Family.
Nicole Idar: Singapore is the fourth Asian city to boast an Akashic Books Noir anthology, after Delhi, Manila, and Mumbai (Seoul is forthcoming). Can you tell us how Singapore Noir came about?
Cheryl Tan: I’d long admired New York publisher Akashic Books’ award-winning Noir series—a series of anthologies, and there are dozens by now, each one set in a country or a city. Brooklyn Noir was a personal favorite but you also have everything from Baltimore Noir to Paris Noir. Some really big names have edited these collections of dark stories set in these locales—Joyce Carol Oates edited New Jersey Noir, for example, and Dennis Lehane edited Boston Noir.
In November 2011, I was at the Miami Book Fair, speaking about A Tiger in the Kitchen, my first book. At the authors’ party, mystery writer extraordinaire S.J. Rozan introduced me to Johnny Temple, Akashic’s publisher. I told Johnny how much I loved his noir series but asked why there hadn’t been a Singapore Noir. He said it was because he didn’t know any Singaporean writers. And S.J. said, “Well now you do.”