Curated reading lists from around the world
CYRIL WONG ON SINGAPOREAN LITERATURE
Singapore is an island-city in a pathological state of survivalist panic. But with fear comes pragmatism and robotic adaptability. The British ruled us. So did the Japanese. The island formed part of the Federation of Malaysia from 1963 before its independence in 1965. Singapore can be "cosmopolitan," but only for practical reasons; we must do business and "play well" with others. Our multiculturalism is a source of both pride and painful cynicism. Its national language is tokenistically Malay, with Mandarin and Tamil as other officialized "mother tongues"; Chinese dialects to Indian languages are thus sidelined. For better or worse, English—neither consistently British nor American, much to the bemusement of outsiders or newcomers determined to "correct" our pronunciation, our ever-modifiable syntax—is becoming the language of all our dreams.