Date : 25 October 2015, Sunday
Time : 2:30 pm
Venue : Rumah Gerakbudaya, No 2, Jalan Bukit 11/2, 46200 Petaling Jaya, Selangor
Speaker : Dr. Fiona Lee
Postdoctoral Fellow in Cultural Studies at the Asia Research Institute, National University of Singapore. She earned her Ph.D in English and Certificate in Women’s Studies at The Graduate Center, City University of New York in 2014.
Organised by : Strategic Information and Research Development Centre (SIRD)
The writer, Han Suyin, is perhaps best known for her novel, A Many-Splendoured Thing, which was adapted into a popular 1955 Hollywood movie, and for her writings on communist China, which garnered controversy in the United States. Less known is the decade or so in which she lived and worked as a medical doctor in Malaya, during which she also developed her career as a writer in earnest.
This talk offers a glimpse of Han Suyin’s years in Malaya and considers how her novels explore the ways in which the Cold War shaped formations of race and nation in Malaya and Singapore during the transition from colonial rule to independence.
Han moved to Johor Bahru in 1952, and quickly became a prominent figure in social intellectual circles. Among many things, she was involved in the setting up of Nanyang University in Singapore, the first Chinese-medium tertiary education institution, and active in the Malayan Chinese literary scene.
Yet, Han primarily wrote in English. From her observations of the Malayan Emergency, she wrote, And the Rain My Drink (1956), a novel exploring the impact of the war between the British armed forces and communist guerrillas on ordinary people. She also wrote an unpublished sequel on Chinese-Malay relations amidst Singapore’s transition to self-government and the early years of merdeka in Malaya.
Examining the work of Han Suyin, the talk highlights the importance of literature in understanding the global historical conditions that shaped the formation of Malaya and Singapore.
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