Stories About Stories: The Short Stories and Radio Plays of S. Rajaratnam
IS THIS S. RAJARATNAM THE SAME S. RAJARATNAM WE ALL KNOW? If the S. Rajaratnam you’re thinking of is the politician who was Singapore’s first and longest-serving Foreign Minister, then the answer is, yes.
We thought it would be nice to remember his birth and death anniversaries at this point — he passed away on 22 Feb and his birthday is 25 Feb. But more importantly, as Assoc Prof Kirpal Singh, who wrote the foreword to this book says, "it reminds us of the great intellect who wrote them".
OKAY, WE KNOW HE WROTE THE SINGAPORE PLEDGE, BUT HE ALSO WROTE SHORT STORIES? Once again, the answer is yes. And he not only wrote short stories but material for radio as well.
Of course, this was way before Mr. Rajaratnam became one of the founding fathers of Singapore. See, in 1935, he went to King's College, London, to study law, but did not complete his studies. He got interested in politics while he was there, and worked as a journalist to support himself when financial aid from his father stopped due to a disturbance called World War II.
During that time (that’s the 1940s), Mr. Rajaratnam wrote several short stories. He also gained the attention of a certain George Orwell (yes, he of Animal Farm and Nineteen-Eighty-Four fame) who was then working in the Indian Section of the BBC’s Eastern Service, which despite its name, was based in London. Mr. Orwell recruited Mr. Rajaratnam to contribute scripts for the network in 1942.
AND THOSE ARE IN THIS BOOK? Well, the short stories are, but not those 1942 BBC scripts, which editor Irene Ng said can't be found. Some of the stories were previously published in various anthologies, but The Short Stories and Radio Plays of S. Rajaratnam is the first time they have been compiled together in one volume.
SO WHAT ARE THE HIGHLIGHTS? Well, one must definitely read “Drought”, which tells the story of well, a drought, but also of Suriar, a young man who learns the truth of why his father died.
Not only is it a nice piece, it was also included in the anthology, A World of Great Stories: 115 Stories, The Best of Modern Literature back in 1947. So what, you say? Well, it was published in New York and his name sits alongside authors whom we now recognise instantly: F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, John Steinback, James Joyce, Somerset Maugham, Anton Chekov, Franz Kafka, Jean-Paul Sartre, to name but a few.
Other interesting stories include “The Tiger”, which was translated into several languages and used as a literature text in two American textbooks (to teach critical thinking); and “The Terrorist”, a searing tale of a young revolutionary nervous about the success of his planned execution of a decadent and corrupt man.
And let’s not forget the two radio plays from 1957: A six-parter called A Nation in the Making and Looking Forward, both of which reflected Mr. Rajaratnam’s political ideas at the time. In the foreword, Assoc Prof Kirpal Singh suggested that they be made compulsory reading for our colleges and universities because its content sheds light on our political history.
WOW. Yup. In short, this is an engaging anthology worthy of space in your book collection.
Until 4 March, we're offering a 25% discount on this book. Get your copy here.