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This Singaporean Short Story Collection Will Crush You With Its Poignant Realism

Local publisher Epigram has published the fourth installment of its anthology series, Best New Singaporean Short Stories. While previous editions contained up to 26 stories, this one – edited by local poet and performer Pooja Nansi – contains just 16, giving the collection a streamlined sensibility despite its scope of settings and perspectives.

The stories range from intimate family portraits to speculative science fiction, but every piece speaks to universal experiences of love, loss, desire, and disappointment. And yet, the voices feel distinctly Singaporean. In “Not Yet Pekak”, a son tries to convince his proud, but hearing-impaired mother to move in with him and his wife. In “Fusings”, parents watch helplessly as their teenage children’s hands literally turn into smartphones. And in “Land Of A Thousand Smiles”, an aging housewife attempts to win back her philandering husband by….well, we won’t spoil it for you, but maybe you can guess it by looking at the title.

Singapore might be a country that prides itself on the resilience and capability of its citizens, but the strongest stories in Volume 4 showcase the quiet drama and desperation of everyday life. "Regrettable Things" follows a crime reporter whose work on a murder case leads her to the home of a long-lost friend. In "Edison and Curie", we meet a pair of overachieving junior college students: a socially awkward prodigy and the sister who can't quite compete with him academically. And in "Just The Green Bit", a struggling writer reconnects with her uncle, an established Singaporean poet, who has since relocated to New York -- but who, for heartbreaking reasons, feels called back to his childood home in Lorong Chuan. 

These stories are written by everyone from full-time writers, to student writers, to hobbyists. If you've either never read Singaporean literature, this would be a good place to start. If Crazy Rich Asians was the last thing you read by a local author, even better.  The authors' names might fly under the radar, but their voices are all too familiar -- they're the voices of our neighbours, our colleagues, and our loved ones. And occasionally, they sound a lot like our own. 

Find out more about this anthology here

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