Jump to ratings and reviews
Rate this book

The Merlion and the Hibiscus: Contemporary Short Stories from Singapore and Malaysia

Rate this book
The Merlion and the Hibiscus brings together the work of nineteen exceptional writers from singapore and malaysia. Written over the last fifty years, these stories reflect the richness of a multicultural society and its experience of war and colonialism. In Gopal Baratham’s, The Interview, a veteran of the Second World War looks back on his years as a Japanese prisoner of war and his unique relationship with his interrogator. In Tragedy of My Third Eye, Suchen Christine Lim writes of Ping, a six-year-old who would rather be an outcaste than a slave and ends up paying the price for this both at school and at home. In Victoria and her Kimono, M. Shanmughalingam parodies the legacy of colonialism. Also in this collection are deeply insightful and entertaining stories about a generation grappling with issues of religious, ethnic and gender identities. Catherine Lim’s Write, Right, Rite, for instance, is a brilliant take-off on the absurdity of moral and ethical policing. In another memorable story, Bugis by Alfian Sa At, an encounter with a transvestite opens a teenager’s eyes to the shallowness of the world around her and to her own hidden desires.

Set in the small towns and cities of Malaysia and Singapore, these stories capture the richness and complexity of life in a region that is an extraordinary blend of different races, languages and cultures.

256 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 2002

Loading interface...
Loading interface...

About the author

Ratings & Reviews

What do you think?
Rate this book

Friends & Following

Create a free account to discover what your friends think of this book!

Community Reviews

5 stars
4 (11%)
4 stars
13 (38%)
3 stars
15 (44%)
2 stars
2 (5%)
1 star
0 (0%)
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews
Profile Image for Brimate.
115 reviews4 followers
June 24, 2008
This collection of short stories from Singapore and Malaysia was a nice read, but I just can't get that into most short stories. I did find a couple authors whose novels I want to read, however.

The stories discuss a variety of issues spanning 3 generations and several ethnic, religious, and linguistic groups on the Malayan peninsula.

I enjoyed learning more about Malaysia and Singapore, and was pleased that I was familiar with some scenery, food, and words since I've visited and studied the countries a little.

But I had plenty of words to look up on the internet.

Despite being pretty much postcolonial in nature, the stories follow traditional narrative form, possibly because, as the "Introduction" discusses, literature from nations outside the UK was not studied in schools until recently.

The stories touched on issues of British colonialism, Japanese imperialism and war cruelty in WW2, life and death, personal stories, military, gender, and sexuality.

The collection was entertaining and interesting, and I could make some personal connections because of the storytelling and because of limited knowledge of the area.

The stories are accessible and easy to read for anyone, save for limited vocabulary in multiple languages (sometimes i didn't even know which language a word was in so i didn't know where to look to find the meaning). this is also a plus, reflecting the rich diversity of malaysia and singapore.

my only complaint is that there are no stories from writers from Borneo (East Malaysia), nor from Orang Asli or Dayak writers (indigenous people). So I will search for stories and novels by Dayak and Bornean authors.
January 24, 2015
I'm not usually a fan of short stories but I enjoyed this book a lot! This is a lovely collection of stories, all very well-written and entertaining. It is also a wonderful introduction to Asian litterature for those who are unfamiliar with it, especially since it gives many different perspectives. The writers belong to three different generations, which also adds to the interest of the stories. The stories I enjoyed most are "Write, Right, Rite" by Catherine Lim, "The Interview" by Gopal Baratham and "Mala" by K.S. Maniam.
Profile Image for Ismim Putera.
116 reviews5 followers
October 7, 2020
A good effort by the editors to compile short stories from various literary backgrounds. I enjoyed some of the stories, particularly "Bugis", "Mariah", "Neighbours", "Hungry Ghosts" and "Hamid & The Hand of Fate". Those aforementioned stories lack no substance nor character development. The rest are fairly good, although the writing style has "too much telling" rather than "showing". Some stories are heavily plague with convoluted plot, piles of pretentious description, lack of clarity and character arcs.
The collection deals with a handful of themes, namely family/filial piety, people, women & sexuality, religion, anti-colonialism & social issues. No works stress on environmental issues & the plight of marginalised community.
Sadly, the collection does not include writers from Malaysian Borneo and/or indigenous people.
Overall, this is a good collection of literary works.
Profile Image for d.
75 reviews28 followers
Shelved as 'did-not-finish'
September 26, 2021
DNF because i don't feel motivated to complete this book, it's probably because they're all short stories so there's nothing pushing me to read the next short story! :") may revisit
Profile Image for Fatini Zulkifli.
367 reviews28 followers
February 7, 2016
This book reveals the plights, fears, hopes and dreams of Chinese, Malay and Indian people living in Singapore and Malaysia.

If I read this all by myself, I might have rated it 2. But Prof has taught me to read between the lines. Thus, I am enlightened on how to approach a literary text like this and thus rated it 4.

Some of the stories criticize the attitude of certain people. For example, 'Bugis' by Alfian Saat portrays the pretentious of Salmah, transgendered people and Bangladeshi man at Bugis Street in Singapore. Salmah is pretentious because she wears 'tudung' to attract her crush's attention. The narrator is sick with Salmah's attitude of wearing ‘tudung’ but she still hold her boyfriend’s hand in public. The narrator (and I) feels that Salmah is pretending that she is a good girl but the truth is, she is not. There are people out there who do this. Wearing 'tudung' to look like a nice and decent girl.

This book goes beyond the stereotypes. For example, we stereotype the Chinese people as money-makers and geniuses. But 'Tragedy of My Third Eye' by Suchen Christine Lim portrays that there are Chinese pupils out there who can't speak English language and there are still Chinese people who use chamber pot and work as prostitutes.

My favourites are 'Kimmy' by Ovidia Yu and 'Tragedy of My Third Eye' by Suchen Lim. Both are written by Chinese. When I read these two, I get emotional, wanna punch some of the characters and hug those poor children.

There are 19 short stories. If readers approach it for entertainment purpose, they will rate it 1 or 2 star/s. But if readers approach it for educational purpose, the rating of 3 or 4 is guaranteed.
Profile Image for Sharmine.
69 reviews12 followers
May 6, 2015
Having read only two of the many short stories in this book, what I could possibly say is that we often ignore our own kind of literature since it is less commercialized, or in my case, just recently found out about mlie writers though they are equally talented if not better from other writers. I wish their works would be more recognized by the public for is it really fascinating to read the works revolving our own culture, religion, nation -- all in such a precise and beautiful words.
Profile Image for Nick Klagge.
716 reviews53 followers
July 23, 2010
Overall this was a pretty strong collection of short stories, with only one or two that I thought were bad and a few that were really superb. The standouts for me were "My Cousin Tim" by Simon Tay and "Surja Singh" by Lloyd Fernando--I'll definitely be looking for more books by these authors.
Profile Image for Fazlinda.
10 reviews1 follower
May 11, 2011
Great compilation of short stories. It introduced me to Malaysian literature.
Displaying 1 - 8 of 8 reviews

Can't find what you're looking for?

Get help and learn more about the design.