The Wayang at Eight Milestone: Stories & Essays
This long overdue collection gathers together sixteen of Gregory Nalpon’s short stories, eleven of his essays, and a selection of his sketches of life in coffee shops, hawker stalls and samshu shops. Through his writing, Nalpon poignantly records a lost, rich world: the colourful, exciting and sometimes perilous Singapore of half a century ago.
With this collection, a vital Singaporean voice is finally recovered. Nalpon’s inspired blend of close observation, legend, local superstition and peculiarly eclectic reading results in some of the most imaginative and exciting writing produced in Singapore during the 1960s and 1970s, including authentic descriptions of indigenous culture and working-class men and women rarely found in Singaporean writing of the period.
“I am glad that Gregory Nalpon’s work at last has a chance of being recognised. His stories are excellent.”
—Edwin Thumboo, award-winning Singaporean poet and academic
“[Nalpon's] stories often produce a resolution at the level of narrative but keep cultural elements in suspense, a series of intersecting gazes that never quite align…Angus Whitehead is to be congratulated both for making Nalpon’s works available to a new and wider audience, and also in the process enabling new perspectives on literary history in Singapore.”
—Philip Holden, Asiatic IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature
“Gregory Nalpon’s stories and evocative commentaries might seem nostalgic for a pre-development Singapore, but make no mistake—there is little sentimentality here, as marginalised characters get fleshed out with brutality, as well as compassion. His poetic, fable-esque narratives possess a sense of magic that is almost spiritual, full of moral lessons about the abjection of human desires, death, and a knowing presence at the heart of the natural world.”
—Cyril Wong, author of Ten Things My Father Never Taught Me and Other Stories and The Last Lesson of Mrs de Souza
“[Nalpon's] collected works in The Wayang at Eight Milestone seem to work as a veritable time machine, winding us readers back to the gritty world of old Singapore and immersing us in its saudade, its beautiful spirit of melancholy…[He is] a pioneer Singaporean storyteller like no other.”
—Ng Yi-Sheng, Quarterly Literary Review Singapore
“Gregory Nalpon wrote from the margins about a Singapore in the throes of great change, and I am convinced that he is our first true proponent of magical realism.”
—Robert Yeo, playwright and author of The Adventures of Holden Heng
“Enigmatic and evocative, Gregory Nalpon’s stories unsettle the reader, sometimes with unexpected tenderness, other times, startling violence. They usher us into a Singaporean world smudged and erased from public memory but throbbingly alive in a fictive universe uniquely shaped by Nalpon’s creative imagination and his spare but suggestively symbolic style. For this wonderful experience we have to thank Angus Whitehead, who with dedicated, perceptive, and historically sensitive scholarship, excavated these stories and brought them into the light of day.”
—Dr Angelia Poon, Nanyang Technological University
“Angus Whitehead’s timely recovery of Gregory Nalpon’s hitherto largely unknown but fascinatingly unique voice makes not only for gratifying reading but also helpfully challenges and enlarges our notions of postcolonial Singapore and its literature.”
—Mohammad A. Quayum, International Islamic University
“Gregory Nalpon’s stories are perfectly poised between gritty realism and mythic wonder. He observes and embraces the rich local diversity of Singapore with the eye of an enchanted poet and the heart of an honest friend. He fathoms the human soul through, and beyond, cultural identity. Editor Angus Whitehead’s love for Nalpon glows in this informative and accessible edition, which will be a treasure for Singaporeans, and a gratifying find for the rest of us who are eager for great reads from around the globe, or take interest in the development of postcolonial writing. Nalpon deserves to claim a place among the most unique and significant voices of the formative and vibrant 1970s.”
—Tristanne Connolly, University of Waterloo
“The modernity of Singapore tends to be regarded as functional and technocratic, pragmatically future-directed. The stories of Gregory Nalpon, light, deft and deceptively understated, restore an alternative past to the city, drawing on its richly diverse collective memory, its multiple cultural identities, and the shaping omnipresence of its coastal terrain. Editor Angus Whitehead has uncovered a distinctive and enchanting new post-colonial voice, wry, lyrical and humane, whose evocation of the local and particular is deserving of a wide international audience.”
—Stephen Clark, University of Tokyo
“Gregory Nalpon’s short stories and essays bring to life vibrant, colourful, and rich depictions of everyday cosmopolitanism of old Singapore. Vivid descriptions of fishermen working on islands southwest of Singapore complement stories in a diverse range of settings from a kampung in Bedok to a bee hoon factory in Upper Thomson, a one bedroom flat in Bukit Ho Swee, and a wayang by a graveyard. This collection is an absolute treasure; it provides an important literary archive of Singapore’s forgotten history and should be made essential reading in the Singapore literature classroom.”
—Dr Suzanne Choo, National Institute of Education and author of Mining for Meaning and Reading the world, the globe, and the cosmos
“If you cannot imagine local fiction without the urban ennui and stirrings against conformity and control, if you long for it to be some other creature altogether–then Gregory Nalpon's revelatory short stories are for you. Written in the 1960s and 1970s, they lucidly and lovingly capture the rhythms and textures of a more rustic Singapore steeped in mysticism, danger and a primaeval sense of wonder. People by an oddball, multi-ethnic cast of characters–loafers, bar girls, gangsters, cynics, dreamers, holy men, freaks and ghosts, The Wayang at Eight Milestone continues Epigram Books' project of publishing buried treasures of early Singapore literature.”
—Clarissa Oon, The Sunday Times
“A wonderful collection edited by Angus Whitehead.”
—Lydia Kwa, fiction writer, in “My Book of the Year”, Singapore Poetry
About the Author:
Gregory Nalpon was born in 1938 in Singapore. After attending St Joseph’s Institution, he energetically embarked on a variety of peripatetic careers: disc jockey, journalist, trade unionist and ‘gentleman of leisure’. These assorted vocations took him from Singapore to Sarawak, Northern Malaysia, Thailand and Australia. During the 1960s and 1970s, Nalpon composed numerous stories, essays, plays and novels. His short story, “The Rose and the Silver Key” was studied by thousands of Singaporean secondary school students. With Nalpon’s sudden death in 1978 at the age of 40, the majority of his writings remained unpublished for over thirty years.
Size: 130 x 200mm
Published: October 2013
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