If We Dream Too Long
3rd printing, 2010, National University of Singapore Press
Paperback US$18.00 / SGD$22.00
This book is widely recognized as the first true Singapore novel. It won the National Book Development Council Award in 1976. Since its publication, it has continued to move and delight generations of Singaporeans.
Young readers especially empathize with the dilemmas and challenges faced by its hero, Kwang Meng, as he navigates the difficult transitional period between youthful aspirations and the external demands of society and family. Shy and sensitive, he feels detached from the mainstream of life, unable to identify with the values that animates his friends. So young Kwang Meng takes refuge in dreams of exotic faraway places , of merging himself in the sea which he loves. Yet amidst this uncertainty, the reader feels that all is not lost, that the young dreamer will find what he’s seeking.
The beauty of If We Dream Too Long is that it reflects the true and unique identity of Singapore society. Kwang Meng’s quest is the universal quest of every young man.
If We Dream Too Long has been used as a text in universities in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines.
2nd Printing, 2011, Epigram Books, Singapore
Paperback US$13.90 / SGD$19.15
Set against a background of foreign intervention and guerrilla counter movement in an unnamed country, The Immolation was one of the first books published in the seventies that tells of occupation and war from an Asian guerrilla’s point of view.
Returning to his homeland from Paris, Thanh feels estranged from his country and his people. He joins an underground group of nationalists. When the group is discovered and has to leave the city, Thanh finds himself thrown into a new world. In a jungle training camp, he meets nationalists and idealists from every social background. Quartered with a farmer’s family in a village amongst rice fields, he learns to enjoy the small pleasures of the common folk. He also finds himself faced with the challenge of having to kill his fellowman.
When all is destroyed in a series of calamities, Thanh is faced with the central, universal moral question of all time: how far should a man commit himself to a cause?
A Dance Of Moths
Published in 1995 by Select Books, Singapore
Paperback US$17.67 / S$22.95
In his third novel, Goh Poh Seng explores the complex lives and human relationships of two men in modern Singapore.
Ong Kian Teck, an advertising executive, epitomizes the successful Singaporean. Yet as his daily life enfolds, we see a man intensely searching, Kafka-like, for something, but not quite knowing what. In his quest, Kian Teck experiments with liquor, sex, the stock market – all the trappings of materialism.
The other protagonist, Chan Kok Leng, an accounts clerk, strives to free himself from the drudgery of his job and the pain of living with his struggling family.
As the two men search for the “light” that would illuminate their lives, their paths cross like the moths which flutter toward the bright flame.
A Dance of Moths won the 1996 National Book Development Council Award for Fiction. It has been used as text by Capilano College in British Columbia.
Dance With White Clouds
Published in 2001 by Asia 2000, Hong Kong
US $18 / HK $138
This novel is centered round what may be life’s most fundamental question: Given that we only have a certain number of years to live, how should we best spend our time?
Dance With White Clouds plots the life of a man who leaves the family he loves and the successful business he has built to pursue a new life. In doing so, he remarries, acquires another family and builds another life as a successful business man – one which, ironically, is not so different from his previous one. The result is truly a timeless fable, down to the time-honoured way of opening the story with “Once upon a time, there was an old man . . . ”
“This is an excellent book. It’s reminiscent of a short story by Chekov – it has the same gentleness, the same striking but unostentatious detail and the same quiet humour”
– Taipei Times