The non-existent lover and other stories
Featuring a selection of short stories written between the 1960s and 2000, this collection charts Yeng Pway Ngon’s evolution in subject matter and style over time. The earlier stories, written at a time when Yeng was known for his modernist poetry, exude solitude and melancholy, and deal with themes such as the wanton rebelliousness of youth, or the poet’s shuttling between death and dream.
From the 1970s onwards, he turned his attention to societal conerns – depicting a lonely writer who falls in love with one of his own characters, an unhappy man yearning for life abroad who ends up in a mental hospital, an unemployed man who finds joy in his friendship with a white bird, and another, who worries that he might turn into a flower.
Other stories introduce us to a parrot who gets taken to court, an ant enamoured with his silhouette, and a disembodied mouth worshipped by the public. Sarcastic, darkly humorous and surreal, Yeng’s writing depicts everyday life in all its absurdism and glory.
Translated from Chinese by Goh Beng Choo
Edited by Jeremy Tiang
Publisher: City Book Room, Singapore
Publication date: 2017
Pages: 132 pages
Singapore, 1980s. Amid the tumult of political promise and upheaval, Yan Pei and his students struggle to pursue art in a rented studio. Yan Pei, a penniless artist, sacrifices more than his marriage to perfect his craft. His student Si Xian makes an irrevocable decision after Ning Fang, the subject of his unrequited love, leaves him for India. Jian Xiong gives up art – and his humanity – when communist politics force him to flee into the Malayan jungle. A story of disparate paths crossing continents over the span of forty years after Singapore’s independence, Art Studio is a stirring meditation on art, politics and memory.