The Earnest Mask
Xi Ni Er
Translated from the Chinese by Howard Goldblatt & Sylvia Li-chun Lin
In this Singapore Literature Prize-winning collection of stories, an aging Japanese ex-soldier, ignorant about the horrors of the Japanese Occupation, returns to Singapore for a nostalgic visit; a young boy’s sole contact with his father consists of a weekly meeting at McDonald’s; and a hopeful employee tries to win over his tumour-stricken boss with traditional Chinese medicine. Set against the backdrop of Singapore’s rapid development from the 1980s to the early 2000s, the poignant and witty stories in The Earnest Mask peel back the veneer of official history, revealing flashes of the personal stories buried beneath.
“Extra thin, extra crisp and extraordinary...[the stories] are a good snapshot of a changing society and capture the essence of being a Singaporean.”
—Rupali Karekar, The Sunday Times
“The author is a master craftsman in the experimentation of mini-fiction writing. Each work is a further expansion of the threshold of the art form. Besides being celebrated by readers for his keen observations, his stories astutely chronicle both the light moments as well as the difficult times in the forty over years of nation building. His works are like colourful mosaics that form the fabric of the Singaporean collective consciousness.”
—READ! Singapore Programme Committee
About the Cultural Medallionist
Known by his pen name Xi Ni Er, Chia Hwee Pheng has received the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s Book Award, the Singapore Literature Prize, the S.E.A. Write Award and Singapore’s Cultural Medallion. He has published eight books, including the poetry collection Kidnapping Times and the fiction collection The Unbearable Heaviness of Life. He currently serves as President of the Singapore Association of Writers.
About the Translators
Howard Goldblatt is Research Professor at the University of Notre Dame and has taught modern Chinese literature and culture for over twenty-five years. He has published English translations of more than thirty novels and story collections by writers from China, Taiwan and Hong Kong. His translations have been awarded the Translation of the Year Prize from the American Literary Translators Association, and the Man Asian Literary Prize three times.
Sylvia Li–chun Lin teaches modern and contemporary Chinese literature, film and culture at the University of Notre Dame. A winner of the Liang Shih–chiu Literary Translation Prize, she is the co–translator of Chu T’ien-wen’s Notes of a Desolate Man, which won the 1999 Translation of the Year Prize given by the American Literary Translators Association, as well as co-translator of Bi Feiyu’s Three Sisters, which won the 2011 Man Asian Literary Prize.
About the Series
The Cultural Medallion is Singapore’s highest cultural award, given to those who have achieved artistic excellence in the areas of literature, dance, music, theatre and art. It was instituted in 1979 to recognise individuals whose artistic excellence and commitment to the arts have enriched and made a distinction to Singapore’s arts and cultural landscape. Epigram Books’ Cultural Medallion series seeks to translate the works of Cultural Medallion winners writing in Tamil, Malay and Chinese into English. Matching writers with some of the best translators working in the field today, these books are being made available to an English-language audience for the first time.
Size: 153 x 225mm
Published: November 2012