The 2018 exco share their literary favourites
Harry Potter by J.K. Rowling
by Farahna Alam, Honorary General Secretary
I’m going to bend the rules here a bit and declare that undoubtedly my most favourite books of all time would absolutely be the Harry Potter Series. Sure, it may not be a literary classic that’s taught in schools during literature lessons but seeing as I practically grew up with the series (and not to mention movies) they’re close to my heart.
Although many might believe that the books technically fall under the category of children’s literature, it no doubt covers important and essential themes that speak to both the young and the old. The series grows as you grow. It begins in a child-like register, imitating the age of both the main character and the core audience. Our desire and longing to find a place where we belong is reflected in Harry’s joy in finding a place that finally accepts and celebrates his magical abilities. His aunt and uncle’s poor treatment of him delicately touches on the topic of child abuse and his place in the Weasley’s family teaches us that family does not necessarily always stem from blood. Those of us with siblings may sometimes find ourselves in Ron’s shoes as he sometimes feel overshadowed by his brothers and as we grow older and face disappointments and failures, Hermione’s determination and drive, initially portrayed as a flaw, gives us strength.
The series matures along with its readers. Other dark topics such as depression and discrimination are also portrayed metaphorically in the introduction of dementors (beings that suck the happiness out of you) and Professor Lupin’s werewolf problems, yet JK Rowling still reminds us that there is hope, and it is within our control as “happiness can be found even in the darkest of times if one remembers to turn on the light”.
The Harry Potter series is also, on one word, fun. From special classes that involve confronting trolls, sports that have you flying, potions that give you good luck, and annual adventures that more or less leads to the cancellation of finals (a common fantasy of us students), and a grand buffet every time the term starts, the Harry Potter Universe is everything we’ve wanted when we were children. And as a teenager entering adulthood, every time I’m longing for a hit of nostalgia, a sense of adventure, and to relieve my childhood, I find myself predictably reaching for my tattered copy of The Philosopher’s Stone to start my journey from scratch, each time falling in love with the series all over again.
Clear Brightness by Boey Kim Cheng
by Nadyanna Majeed, Events Director
I first read Boey Kim Cheng’s works when I was 17, and from then I was drawn into the world of SingLit (Singaporean literature). His constant struggle of being caught between two cultures resonated with me and I began to read more and more of his works, as well as works by other Singaporean poets. I loved the little idiosyncratic references each poet made in his or her own writing, be it to our own collective history as a nation or community or to their own personal experiences.
Boey’s Clear Brightness is a collection of his poems about his experience as a Singaporean Chinese, struggling to navigate the different cultural landscapes of Singapore, Australia, and various parts of the world. He eventually finds solace in the transient spaces between cultures, like the Chinatowns constructed in various parts of the world, treating them as a home away from home.
Boey also expresses how poets are bound by the responsibility to capture and immortalise moments and narratives, like the Japanese Occupation and our past monuments like the National Theatre of Singapore, which has since been demolished.
In closing, I’d like to leave you with a quote from Boey’s The Disappearing Suite:
You set out, a search party of one, on the fading trail of letters, the emails, tokens, memories like tracks fading fast
Discworld by Terry Pratchett
by Euodias Yeo, Marketing Director
Since I was young I’ve had a fascination with fantasy. My secondary school weekends were often spent immersed in the worlds of Middle-earth, Narnia and the Old Kingdom. However, Terry Pratchett’s Discworld will always hold a special place in my heart.
I still remember the moment I chanced upon my first Pratchett book. I was around thirteen, abandoned by my parents at the local library and left to fend for myself, I headed for the quietest corner – Second floor, English fiction section. Amongst titles of hardboiled detective novels and steamy erotica, I chanced upon a dark blue cover with an odd illustration peeking out. On the cover there was a skeleton man dressed as Santa riding a sleigh led by wild hogs, and on this cover the name “TERRY PRATCHETT” was scrawled in capital letters. For those curious, the book was aptly called “The Hogfather” and as the saying goes this encounter was only the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
Soon I was immersed in the universe called “Discworld”. During recess breaks, I was captivated by the individuals that inhabited the flat earth upon the backs of four elephants that stood upon the shell of the Great A’Tuin, a gigantic space turtle. I’m especially fond of Death and his frequent accomplice the Death of Rats. While Terry Pratchett’s Death was physically characterized as the typical, grim hooded figure wielding a scythe, he was anything but so. Much like Pratchett’s other whimsical characters, the grim reaper of Discworld was an endearing figure fascinated with humanity and often expressed a fondness for cats and curry (even though he doesn’t need to eat). Writing a novel is difficult. Writing a good novel can be even more impossible. But humor was Terry Pratchett’s greatest weapon; the man had a gift of bringing absurd stories filled with kindness to life. He was especially gifted at satire and inverting tropes, twisting familiar tales of sword-wielding heroes into ones where grizzled old witches, warts and all, save the kingdom with their wits instead.
There are many quotes I loved from his novels, but the one I hold most dearly was found in my first ever Discworld novel, declared by Death himself:
HUMANS NEED FANTASY TO BE HUMAN. TO BE THE PLACE WHERE THE FALLING ANGEL MEETS THE RISING APE.
I’ve never met Terry Pratchett in real life; he sadly passed away in 2015. I think I cried that day knowing that the world lost someone special and that there will never be another new venture into those familiar realms. But I’m comforted by the thought that he has left a legacy, a fantastical world to re-visit time and time again. A man is not dead while his name is still spoken.
So thank you and GNU Sir Terry Pratchett.