Eurasian images of Singapore in the fiction of Rex Shelley

Wicks, Peter (2002) Eurasian images of Singapore in the fiction of Rex Shelley. In: Singaporean literature in English: a critical reader. Universiti Putra Malaysia Press, Serdang, Malaysia, pp. 377-383. ISBN 983 2373 50 6


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In a series of four novels, amounting to a substantial personal literary output, the author Rex Shelley has fashioned a portrait of Singapore that differs significantly from the conventional ones, both official and literary. Shelley comes from the numerically small Eurasian community, and it is the distinctive historical experience of this minority, also known colloquially as mesticos, serani, or geragok, that richly frames his fiction. Yet Shelley’s achievement is often curiously overlooked in Singaporean literary criticism.

The Singapore of Rex Shelley’s fiction is not primarily the success story of the overseas Chinese who so quickly became a large and dominant majority of the Singaporean population, though their economic achievements do form a necessary context for Shelley’s works. Nor is it a nostalgic vision of Bangsa Melayu as dreamed by generations of once rural Malays. Nor is it the ravaged evocation of Indian diaspora so eloquently chronicled by K S Maniam. Rather, Shelley’s attention is upon the very human consequences of Western colonialism in Southeast Asia, namely the products of unions, legitimate or otherwise, between European males and local females. As Shelley told Ronald Klein in a recent interview “, I wanted to put down some record of the social history of this Eurasian minority community.” (1) The result is an impressive, if structurally flawed, portrait of vivid integrity amongst Singapore’s Eurasian community over time. As personified by the characters in the four novels, Shelley’s Eurasians are not marginal, post-colonial oddities, but an engaging, multi-dimensional community who laugh, cry, work, play, dream, struggle, gossip, and intrigue, just like any other. They may not be Malay, Chinese, Indian, European, or Arab, but they are involved, patriotic participants in the shaping of Singapore nonetheless

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Item Type: Book Chapter (Commonwealth Reporting Category B)
Refereed: No
Item Status: Live Archive
Additional Information: Author holds copyright.
Faculty / Department / School: Historic - Faculty of Arts - Department of Humanities and International Studies
Date Deposited: 11 Oct 2007 01:04
Last Modified: 26 Sep 2016 00:38
Uncontrolled Keywords: Rex Shelley, Singapore, Singpaorean literature, fiction
Fields of Research : 20 Language, Communication and Culture > 2005 Literary Studies > 200519 South-East Asian Literature (excl. Indonesian)

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