Ian Chung (moderator) with several shortlisted Singapore Literature Prize writers: Audrey Chin (As the Heart Bones Break), Hidayah Amin (The Mango Tree), Josephine Chia (Kampong Spirit Gotong Royong: Life In Potong Pasir 1955 to 1965), Yong Shu Hoong (The Viewing Party) and Joshua Ip (Sonnets from the Singlish).
During the Q&A the importance of memory & the sense of loss & displacement caused by change were discussed. Points were made that memory is integral to identity, often we feel the loss of something without knowing what was there to begin with, Singaporeans adapt well to change and the younger generation have a different perspective on nostalgia than the 'pioneer generation' (McDonalds & Local TV shows from the 90s vs Trees & Mansions). While everybody longed to recapture that 'kampong spirit' of yesterday, nobody missed the poverty, lack of sewerage and electricity etc etc. As in all Singaporean conversations on memory, Kim Boey Cheng was mentioned ('… never bring up the Fullarton Bay Hotel or you may see tears.'). There was a comment on cyber sex vs real sex but I can't/don't wish to remember the details.
When I think about memory, I also think about:
- Memory & consumerism: "We're ruined because we get what we want and wish for what we had." Don Draper, Mad Men
- Memory & photography: "Not only is the Photograph never, in essence, a memory (whose grammatical expression would be the perfect tense, whereas the tense of the Photograph is the aorist), but it actually blocks memory, quickly becomes a counter-memory." Roland Barthes, Camera Lucida
- Memory & the "spiral unwinding of things": “Mnemosyne, one must admit, has shown herself to be a very careless girl.” Vladimir Nabokov, Speak, Memory
- Memory & the inside of our heads: “Lost opportunities, lost possibilities, feelings we can never get back. That's part of what it means to be alive. But inside our heads - at least that's where I imagine it - there's a little room where we store those memories. A room like the stacks in this library. And to understand the workings of our own heart we have to keep on making new reference cards. We have to dust things off every once in awhile, let in fresh air, change the water in the flower vases. In other words, you'll live forever in your own private library.” Haruki Murakami, Kafka on the Shore
- Memory & politics: “He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past.” George Orwell, 1984
- Memory & Libraries: If books are full of memories & libraries full of books, then what of the removal of certain books from shelves & then their transfer from Childrens' to Adults' Section? Are there memories we are not mature enough to handle? Will the NLB's initial decision to remove And Tango Makes Three, The White Swan Express and Who’s in My Family from its shelves be forgotten? How will this episode be remembered/repackaged/revised/reclaimed/resurrected/removed to a tiny, dusty store room with no windows & forgotten?