The Tropics and Other Experiments

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Interviewed by the online magazine Entropy, I had the opportunity to reflect on the point of setting up Gaudy Boy in 2017 as an imprint of Singapore Unbound. What are your influences, your aesthetic, your mission, the interview asked. I wrote, "We arise from, and hope to contribute to, the transnational ‘turn’ in literature and literary studies. We are interested in the various ways that writers and writings move across national boundaries to develop a circulation of influences, exchanges, and alliances. Instead of seeing the world in such dualistic terms as East versus West, North versus South, we envision the gathering of the most progressive elements everywhere, and the publication of such a gathering in our list."

Big words indeed, which do not hide the fact that Gaudy Boy is very much an experiment in its infancy. We don't know if we will succeed, but we are inspired by others who have gone before us. In Singapore, the independent publisher Ethos Books has braved strict censorship and a tiny market to publish many works of progressive politics and literary beauty. In the USA, Kaya Press continues to publish cutting-edge literature of the Asian Pacific diaspora. We aim to follow in the paths thus opened and to open a few ourselves.

That's why we're so excited about the forthcoming release of the co-winners of the 1st Gaudy Boy Poetry Book Prize. The judge Wong May, born in China, raised in Singapore, trained in the Iowa Writing Workshop, USA, and now living with her family in Dublin, Ireland, is an exemplar of the transnational writer. To our gratified surprise, she chose as co-winners the manuscripts of an Asian American and an Asian, thus establishing a bridge that we ourselves are eager to build. You can now pre-order Jenifer Sang Eun Park's AUTOBIOGRAPHY OF HORSE and Lawrence Lacambra Ypil's THE EXPERIMENT OF THE TROPICS below.

The talk of trans-nationalism may seem to sit oddly with our name, Singapore Unbound. However, we have always seen ourselves as Singapore and beyond, not so much living between two worlds in helpless vacillation, as building actively a network of strong connections. If a nation is an imagined community, sustained by narrative, symbol, and ritual, as historian Benedict Anderson argues, then an international order that is democratic, equal, and just must be imagined too, and we wish to participate in that visionary project. The new story "Call Centre" by India-based Nidhi Arora (below) depicts not only our sharp differences, but also our shared resources.

 Jee Leong Koh
January 31, 2019


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