SEA Write Award 2013 Winner: Yeng Pway Ngon

8 October 2013

Yeng Pway Ngon is a poet, novelist, playwright and critic who has published 25 books: five novels, two collections of short stories, three volumes of poetry, two collections of stage plays, 11 volumes of essays and a collection each of social critiques and literary critiques. Yeng’s work is noted for its examination of the modern human condition, and has been translated to English, Malay and even Dutch.

Yeng Pway Ngon received the Cultural Medallion for Literature in 2003. His novels, A Man Like Me [一个像我这样的男人; 1987] and Tumult [骚动; 2002], won the National Book Development Council of Singapore’s Book Award for Fiction in Chinese in 1988, and the Singapore Literature Prize in 2004 respectively. Trivialities about Me and Myself [我与我自己的二三事] won the Singapore Literature Prize in 2008 and was also named one of the Ten Best Chinese Novels for 2006 by Asia Weekly. In 2011 Art Studio [画室] was named one of the Ten Best Chinese Novels for the year.

Yeng Pway Ngon studied Chinese literature at the former Ngee Ann College in the 1960s. He started writing poetry and had some of his poems published in literary journals in Singapore, Malaysia and Hong Kong. In the early 70’s he set up Grassroots Book Room to sell books on Chinese literature, history and philosophy. The retail business was terminated in the early 80s due to increase in rent, and he began to engage in free-lance writing. During those years he wrote columns for Nanyang Siang Pau (Singapore), China Press (Malaysia) and Wen Wei Bo (Hong Kong). After the merger of Nanyang Siang Pau and Sin Chew Jit Poh he wrote a column of social commentaries for Lianhe Wanbao titled [人在江湖] , for which he had a large following. At the same time he wrote radio plays regularly for Rediffusion (a private broadcast station) and co-hosted culture programs with a broadcaster of Rediffusion. Meanwhile he ventured into publishing using the name of Grassroots, which published the works of Mr. Yang and other local writers. In 1994, he left for Hong Kong to engage in writing for newspapers and magazines published in Hong Kong. He stayed there for a year. He returned to Singapore in 1995 to continue operating his Grassroots Book Room till now.

The South East Asian Writers Awards, or S.E.A Write Award, was established in 1979 to recognize and honour literary excellence in the ASEAN region. Based in Bangkok, the awards are presented annually since 1979 to leading poets and writers in the ten countries which comprise the ASEAN region.

The uniqueness of this award is that the awardees are selected by their own peers in each of the ten ASEAN countries. The award maybe given for a specific work by an author or for lifetime achievement. The categories and types of works include poetry, short stories, novels, plays, folklore and scholarly and religious works. Entries are accepted only from authors who are still living.

Some of the previous winners from Singapore include: Philip Jeyaretnam (2003); Soon Ai Ling (2004); P. Krishnan (2005); Isa Kamari (2006); Rex Shelley (2007); Stella Kon (2008); Chia Hwee Pheng (2009); Johar Bin Buang (2010); Robert Yeo (2011) and Suchen Christine Lim (2012).

The Award presentation ceremony will be held in Bangkok, Thailand on 14 October 2013. The winner will receive a commemorative plaque, cash and a week with all expenses paid vacation to Thailand.

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