State of Emergency

State of Emergency Winner Of The 2018 Singapore Literature Prize For FictionFinalist For The 2016 Epigram Books Fiction PrizeSiew Li Leaves Her Husband And Children In Tiong Bahru To Fight For Freedom In The Jungles Of Malaya Years Later, A Malaysian Journalist Returns To Her Homeland To Uncover The Truth Of A Massacre Committed During The Emergency And In Singapore, Siew Li S Niece Stella Finds Herself Accused Of Being A Marxist Conspirator.Jeremy Tiang S Debut Novel Dives Into The Tumultuous Days Of Leftist Movements And Political Detentions In Singapore And Malaysia It Follows An Extended Family From The 1940s To The Present Day As They Navigate The Choppy Political Currents Of The Region What Happens When The Things That Divide Us Also Bind Us Together State of Emergency by Jeremy Tiang is that new breed of Singapore novel which treads gently into areas which have hitherto remained untouched, perhaps because of the country s so called Out of Bound Markers Subjects and government policies which are too sensitive to be debated by the general public As the title suggests, this novel is mostly set during the years of the Malayan Emergency of 1948 1960 During those years an active Communist insurgency was playing out in the jungles of Malaya today s Malaysia though the troubles reached as far south as Singapore itself Through the characters, which include a British journalist, a communist rebel fighter and her family, Tiang takes us through the reality of a divided nation fighting its own government The author does not hold back in describing the often brutal tactics used by the British colonial regime the Malayan Emergency was fought against the colonial authorities to control and finally subdue the armed insurrection Among the tools used were torture, concentration camps and other harsh tactics used by authorities around the world to crush similar ideologically motivated armed uprisings While these methods are geography neutral, i.e they may be used by any country against any uprising, the harsh impact on humans varies subject to pla
I made sure to read this book after it won the Singapore Literature Prize this year 2018 I read two other nominees in the Fiction category, and really wanted to see why this one beat them, especially Sugarbread which I really liked State of Emergency gives us a rare and important look at the leftist history of Singapore and Malaysia, which is only vaguely taught in school The author s immense research shows in the little details about the lives of the Communist guerillas, their family, and everyone else during the Malayan Emergency and after The book is made up of 6 different parts, each from the perspective of a new and different narrator They re all related, most by blood in the same family, a few by acquaintance or as friends Unfortunately, only the last two parts Stella s and Henry s really stood out to me The pace and action finally picked up in those two parts, and I was actually engaged in the character s journey, whereas the earlier parts felt too much like detailing history in a matter of fact way Most of the time I felt like the events and exposing of truth were of a focus than the characters, especially at the parts where there was really so much narration than dialogue, and that s not the kind of writing I personally can easily immerse myself into.The writing is simple and at times beau
A couple stuck in time stares at potential readers and buyers of the book This arresting image never leaves you once you open up the book and read the epitaph from Walter Benjamin s The Philosophy of History and translated by Harry Zohn The history of the oppressed teaches us that the state of emergency in which we live is not the exception but the rule A page after, Mollie Remedos died in the explosion that tore apart MacDonald House on 10 March 1965 Jason, Mollie s brother, swore revenge on the bombers and tasted justice when they were hanged on 17 October 1968 But his instinct for revenge feels blunted after fifty years have passed Nothing has changed and he still feels the loss of his sister.And he also loses his wife, Siew Li, to the same political turmoil The married couple and four other people closely connected to them lose their innocence and livelihoods in very similar ways Jason lives and dies in Singapore without ever meeting his wife again Siew Li dreams of being a hero for Singapore and joined communist movements before getting separated from her husband and children Nam Teck remembers his f
I read a fifth of this While the story was moderately interesting, the characters never came alive enough for me to want to see how it all turned out. A wonderful novel written in gentle prose that emphasises, rather than conceals, the steel of its content State of Emergency explores Singapore s and Malaya s political history leftists, communism, detention without trial, state corralled confessionals through the lens of an extended family The book is about traces and tracing the eddies Siew Li leaves behind when she vanishes into the Malayan jungle letters in an abandoned flat a translated interview a signature on a confession a journey up the spin
One of the best books I ve read so far this year Jeremy Tiang writes an unforgettable novel about generations of young men and women caught up in leftist movements in Singapore and state repression thereof I enjoyed Tiang s sharp character work he has a gift for giving his characters a depth that invite sympathy even as he s not above subtly mocking them the strait laced devout Christian, the self righteous academic, the unhappy explosive father This did much to mak
State of Emergency is my Jeremy Tiang book and definitely not my last In fact, I think it s one of my top reads so far this year And to think it s also a book that I never thought I d read This book takes us through the lives of a communist rebel fighter, her family and a British journalist as they navigate through different circumstances from the years during the Malayan Emergency to the present day This is a period of our history that isn t talked about so often or even covered in history lessons in school, so it s quite an eye opener for me to read these stories and to learn that they are based on actual, real life events I think it s pretty amazing, too, how this book is so ambitious and yet there s never a point where it feels like Tiang is merely info dumping In fact, there s something about these
This is a very well written novel about a topic I knew nothing about Tiang leads the reader through a particularly violent period in the history of Malaya Malasia Singapore, complete with political an military
The book s beginning is gripping and it maintains this tone and pace for about the first half I was engrossed and wanted to learn what happens.Then the sections on Revanthi and Stella slowed things considerably Revanthi s interview rehashes what s been told earlier and feels artificial, and the story ambles along Also, there s something about her that feels shallow, undeveloped Stella s interrogations drag down the pace even I know there were many sessions but at this point, I started to question if
right in the middle of a war that s not a war, that s stretching on even though it ended ten years ago This is one day, twenty two years ago, and lives are still being destroyed over it I m not the right person for the story, except somehow I m the one who s here p 143 A suspenseful and intricate novel that explores how the ramifications of the Malayan Emergency and the state s reaction to perceived ideological deviance plays out in the lives of these related people across different generations The reverberations and the legacies of this all out war, between the British colonial officials and the Malayan Communists, are deftly and methodically dissected in this novel, through the lives of six people Never allowing the weight of history no