SIIA chairman Simon Tay has been awarded the Singapore literature prize 2010 for his novel City of Small Blessings. While outside of his work on international issues, the award is notable as it stands as the pinnacle national literary award recognizing the best work in the last two years. The judges voted unanimously for Tay's novel and cited it as "a milestone in Singapore literature".
Tay has previously published four other books of stories and poems, in addition to his six books of international law and public policy. His literary work has been studied in universities in Singapore and abroad and Tay was previously Young Artist of the Year (1995). He has participated in the Edinburgh writers' festival and the Iowa Writers program.
City of Small Blessings Wins Singapore Literature Prize
Author calls for “Critical Love” for Country
The 2010 Singapore Literature Prize has been awarded to City of Small Blessings, a novel by Simon Tay (Landmark Books 2008).
Tay has written four previous books of stories, poems and essays, two of which were Highly Commended by the NBDCs. He was a Young Artist of the Year recipient in 1995 and participated in the renowned Iowa Writers Program in 1989/90. In recent years however, Tay has been more widely known in his roles on international and public issues. He was a Nominated Member of Parliament (1997-2001) and chaired a major statutory board (National Environment Agency 2002-08) and is currently chairman of the Singapore Institute of International Affairs. His comments feature in the international and regional media and his latest non fiction book, “Asia Alone: The Dangerous Post Crisis Divide from America” was reviewed in the Economist, Financial Times and Newsweek.
In accepting the Singapore Literature Prize, Tay said he was honored and did not expect to win, as the book could be read as being critical of Singapore. City’s main protagonist is a retired man who, after a spell abroad, returns to the country to which he gave his working life only to find that he no longer fits in. Through this lens, the novel considers the rich texture of national and personal histories as well as many current issues of identity, belonging and the soul of Singapore as it transforms into a global city.
Tay called for more to critically love the city and country. “There are some who are like cheerleaders and refuse to discern the quality and direction of changes in Singapore. Just this last week, the front page headline reports that Singapore is the happiest city in Asia. Is that true? Is that how people feel? We should not be against change. Many recent developments have made the city a more open and dynamic place. But more Singaporeans and residents here need to debate this, rather than accept propaganda. To love something, is to criticize it. And do something. The worse enemy is apathy.”
Goh Eck Kheng, publisher of Landmark Books, recognizes City as an influential novel. “It is a book that Singaporeans and Singapore watchers can easily relate to. It can be discussed and debated. Everyone who has an opinion on Singapore will have something to say about it.”
Tay, 49, is Peranakan and counts himself as a 5th generation Singaporean. His late father Tay Seow Huah (1933-1980) was a senior civil servant in the government, rising to permanent secretary before his early death. Tay lives in Seletar Airbase.
For further information, contact Simon Tay through his publisher, Mr Goh Eck Kheng, firstname.lastname@example.org.