Director's Note (March 2012)
In February 2012, we commemorated the 70th anniversary of the fall of Singapore. The British surrender on 15 February 1942 marked the beginning of the darkest three-and-a-half years in Singapore’s history. However, it was also an important event in our journey towards nationhood.
Singapore’s journey from British colony to independent nation was experienced first-hand by the writer of this issue’s “Spotlight”, local poet and playwright Robert Yeo. In 2011, Robert published Routes: A Singaporean Memoir 1940-75, an account of the first 35 years of his life and how his experiences have shaped him. In his article here, aptly titled “Tell it ‘Slanted’”, Robert shares his approach to writing his memoir.
The war and the Japanese Occupation also formed part of the backdrop for Meira Chand’s epic novel A Different Sky (2010). While the published novel starts in 1927, an early draft of the work actually included a chapter set in 1922. This unpublished chapter is now presented here in the feature “Lunch with Mr Einstein”.
The book publishing industry is so well developed today, with self-publishing readily available to authors, that it is easy for us to forget how challenging it once was to take a manuscript to print. In “A Work of Many Hands”, Sachiko Tanaka and Irene Lim tell an amazing tale of fate and resourcefulness that begins with a shipwreck off the Japanese coast in 1832 and ends with the eventual printing of the first Japanese translation of John’s Gospel and his Epistles in Singapore in 1837.
In late 2010, the National Library was privileged to receive a donation of 65 valuable items from the family of the late Dr Wu Lien-Teh, a medical pioneer known for his efforts in containing the 1910-1911 plague in Manchuria. Among the books in the Wu Lien-Teh Collection is a copy of Biographies of Prominent Chinese (1925), possibly one of only two copies that currently exist in the world. Wee Tong Bao writes about Dr Wu and the collection in “A Life Less Ordinary”.
Books have a significant role to play in recording and transmitting information and ideas; not only textual books but graphic novels as well. In “Comic Books as Windows into a Singapore of the 1980s and 1990s”, Lim Cheng Tju examines how graphic novels, also known as comic books, offer an alternative means of understanding the past social and political conditions of Singapore. Clarence Lee follows with an article that argues for the increased use of graphic novels to teach English Language in schools, presenting the results of an experimental study that tests the effectiveness of such books in helping students learn descriptive writing skills compared with traditional texts.
I hope you will enjoy the articles in this issue of BiblioAsia as much as I have. Happy reading!
Ms Ngian Lek Choh
Director, National Library