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Different Voices

The Singaporean/Malaysian Novel

Rosaly Puthucheary

Publication Year: 2009

The Different Voices: Singaporean/Malaysian Novel, focuses on the challenges that face a novelist in the literary representation of a multilingual environment. The early writers used strategies like vernacular transcription and mimetic translation. However, the close readings of twelve selected novels by non-European writers from 1980 to 2001 indicate the increasing use of strategies like lexical borrowings, code mixing, code switching and varieties of Singapore-Malayan English, instead. Puthucheary asserts in her book that the methods of language appropriation have a direct connection to how the writer conveys the multilingual nature of the Singapore-Malayan society through the speaking person while developing the central theme of the novel. The book maps out the verbal artistic representation of the speaking person and the correlation between speech and character in a multilingual environment.

Published by: ISEAS–Yusof Ishak Institute

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. viii-xii

The language of Malaysian and Singaporean fiction has not been examined in a book-length publication before. There have been several shorter studies, or studies included in more general surveys. This pioneering book-length study by Rosaly Puthucheary should therefore be welcomed by anyone who is interested in the study of the ...

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pp. xiii-xv

When I embarked on this research in December 2002 after doing a coursebook in Advanced Research Methodology, it was not without a certain amount of trepidation since there are very few critical writings on Singaporean and Malaysian novels in English. ...

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pp. xvi

This book is based on my Ph.D. dissertation at the National University of Singapore. I am most grateful to ISEAS Director Ambassador K. Kesavapany and ISEAS Publications Unit led by Mrs Triena Ong for publishing this book ...

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pp. 1-34

The last decade of the twentieth century witnessed a marked increase in novels written with a setting in Malaysia and Singapore by those who have grown up in this region, some of whom have either migrated to other countries or are now living abroad. I have selected novels written about this region by non-European ...

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pp. 35-55

In Lee Kok Liang’s Flowers in the Sky (1981), the voice that the reader hears is one that remembers and reflects. It is through the search for spiritual solace while trapped in isolation, unable to communicate this profound longing that the two main characters in the novel — one a Jaffna Tamil, and the other a Chinese — both immigrants settled ...

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2. THE RETURN (1981)

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pp. 56-76

Alienation, the theme, is central to K.S. Maniam’s first novel, The Return (1981), a retrospective narrative from the protagonist Ravi’s point of view, and limited to what he hears and sees. In an essay, “The Malaysian Novelist: Detachment or Spiritual Transcendence”, Maniam says The Return “in fact, sets out to explore how Indian religious ...

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3. RICE BOWL (1984)

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pp. 77-98

In Rice Bowl (1984), Suchen Christine Lim’s first novel, the writer dramatizes the tension between the Mandarineducated Chinese and the English-educated Chinese. This tension is linked to the underlying theme in the novel — national identity. Unlike Lee Kok Liang and Maniam, the writer moves away from ...


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pp. 99-120

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pp. 121-139

It is through the stylization of the voices of the characters in A Candle Or the Sun (1991) that Gopal Baratham parodies certain linguistic features of Singapore English. For this purpose, the writer has created a first person narrator in the character of Hernando Perera, who is sensitive to language. The narrator’s command of English ...

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pp. 140-162

The Crocodile Fury (1992) by Beth Yahp has Australian readers as the target group for it was written and published in Australia. The writer, according to her acknowledgments, draws her information from books such as The Bomoh and the Hantu, Malay Superstitions and Beliefs, Traditions and Taboos, Hantu Hantu, and Ghost Stories of Old China. ...

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pp. 163-180

The backdrop to Lloyd Fernando’s second novel Green is the Colour (1993) is the aftermath of the racial riots in Malaysia on 13 May 1969. This historical fact is used to evoke the mounting oppression in Malaysian politics. Fernando, in Green is the Colour, extrapolates from the events during the May 13th riots and their aftermath a ...

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pp. 181-200

In The Road to Chandibole (1994), Marie Gerrina Louis’s first novel, the writer uses the apparent romantic portrayal of a strong Tamil woman in love with a strong Chinese man to make a serious comment on the marginalized Tamil women living in the rubber estates. What the novel suggests then are two levels of reading: one type of reader ...

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pp. 201-219

In Philip Jeyaretnam’s Abraham’s Promise (1995), the reflective and retrospective musings of the first person narrator play a crucial role in the development of the theme. The protagonist Abraham Isaac comes from the Ceylonese community and speaks English as if he was “educated at Oxford” (p. 122). ...

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pp. 220-238

The novel Perhaps In Paradise (1997) by Ellina binti Abdul Majid is narrated from the protagonist’s point of view, limited to what she observes. Written in a simple, unpretentious language, the writer uses the “down to earth voice of a narrator in skaz”1 (Bakhtin 1981, p. 262). The novel portrays evolving images of a girl Kina in the process ...

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pp. 239-257

In Playing Madame Mao (2000), Lau Siew Mei through effective exploitation of the convention of multiple narrators is able to explore fully the concept of freedom of speech. This is because ...

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pp. 258-277

Fiona Cheong’s second novel Shadow Theatre (2002) was published in New York. Her first novel, The Scent of the Gods (1991), about a young girl growing up in Singapore, was likewise published in New York. The narrative structure of the novel Shadow Theatre grows out of its title, which ...

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pp. 278-290

A writer who constructs a novelistic hybridization must ensure that the character or narrator who uses a particular language has, in fact, the sensibility that is necessary to structure such utterances. The novels I have analysed in the preceding chapters show the writer’s awareness of this fact. ...


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pp. 291-300


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pp. 301-317


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pp. 318

E-ISBN-13: 9789812309129
Print-ISBN-13: 9789812309112

Page Count: 318
Publication Year: 2009

Edition: 1