Trivialities About Me and Myself
Yeng Pway Ngon
Translated by Howard Goldblatt
Selected by Asiaweek as one of the 10 Best Chinese Novels of 2006
Winner, Singapore Literature Prize for Chinese 2008
Selected by The Business Times as one of the Best Books of 2014
The Chinese protagonist of Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon's novel, Trivialities about Me and Myself, is a journalist turned entrepreneur who possesses a split personality. “Me” is a figure consumed by greed and sexual desire, two impulses that undermine his careers, his two marriages, and his relationship with his son. Throughout the novel he engages in a dialogue with his other identity, the moralistic “Myself”, whose principled stances try but usually fail to win over his other half.
The protagonist’s lifetime, from childhood to his dying days in a rest home, parallels the modern history of Singapore itself and its evolution from a colonised city to a consumer-oriented nation, one in which an English-language educational system and commercial interests suppress indigenous languages and traditions. While the meticulously described action takes place in the city, the real setting is within the psyche of the narrator, whose two halves are engaged in an epic struggle for dominance.
“Translated into English for the first time, this complex and layered novel by Chinese language writer and Cultural Medallion recipient Yeng Pway Ngon centres on a protagonist whose lifelong struggles with his identity mirrors Singapore's own dilemmas.”
—Helmi Yusof, The Business Times
“Any struggle with morality and identity is a struggle with reality. Until now, the protagonist lives in me. It’s scary.”
—Anthony Waugh Koh, writer-bookseller, in “My Book of the Year”, Singapore Poetry
About the Cultural Medallionist:
Yeng Pway Ngon—Chinese language poet, novelist, playwright and critic—is one of Singapore's most prolific authors, having published over 25 volumes of poetry, essays, fiction, plays and literary criticism. His work is noted for its examination of the modern human condition, and has been translated into English, Malay and Dutch. Yeng received the National Book Development Council of Singapore's Book Award in 1988, and the Singapore Literature Prize in 2004, 2008 and 2012. He was awarded the Cultural Medallion in 2003 for his contributions to literature in Singapore, and the SEA Write Award in 2013.
About the Translator:
Howard Goldblatt was a Research Professor of Chinese at the University of Notre Dame from 2002-2011 and is a translator of numerous works of contemporary Chinese (mainland China & Taiwan) fiction, including The Taste of Apples by Huang Chunming and The Execution of Mayor Yin by Chen Ruoxi. Goldblatt has also translated works of Chinese novelist and 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature winner Mo Yan. Notably, his translation of six major novels and collections of stories by Mo Yan contributed to the Award granted without the knowledge of Chinese by the Committee members. His translation of Notes of a Desolate Man by Chu Tien-wen garnered a 2000 National Translation Award, and he was a recipient of a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2009.
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: 225 x 153mm
Published: October 2014