Thank you for this significant award, which recognises and brings to the world’s attention the rich literary works of modern Southeast Asia. Contemporary Southeast Asian poets and novelists from Myanmar, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Singapore are writing poetry and stories of the unsung, unsaid and uncelebrated. I am honoured to be counted among them.
It is said that in the world of literature there are no borders. Feelings and emotions are universal, and even the rich and corrupt will bleed if their flesh is cut. Fiction, however, is created in a specific context, set in a specific time past, present or future. Reading the novels and short stories of a specific country helps us, the readers, to understand it beyond the news of its politics and economy. Reading the literary works of a country is like listening to its heartbeat. I thank and applaud the wisdom of those who created this award in 1979 to encourage and recognise sustained passion and commitment to re-imagine and re-create Southeast Asia in fiction and poetry.
The congregation of English & Asian voices in my country, the result of our colonial history, has great impact on our identity as a people and it is part of our national fabric. The Singapore novelist writing in English faces the challenge of re-creating and rendering the variety of Asian voices & languages into English. As a Singapore writer writing in English in Southeast Asia, I have a dream. I dream that some day a writer from Thailand, Vietnam or Indonesia or Malaysia would translate a Singapore novel written in English into the national language of his or her country.
Your Royal Highness, ladies and gentlemen, thank you for bestowing the honour of the Southeast Asia Write Award on my body of writing. And last but not least, I thank my family especially my two sons, and all my friends for their staunch and steady support these many years. Thank you everyone.