Archive for the ‘15 bookshops’ Category

Interview with Yeng Pway Ngon 英培安, formerly of Grassroots Book Room, November 2015.

* This interview with Mr Yeng, conducted in November 2015, is presently featured as a special highlight in view of Mr Yeng’s upcoming event at the Singapore Writers Festival 2018 (Yeng Pway Ngon at Singapore Writers Festival 2018). After the end of the Festival, the interview will be moved to s/pores issue no.15 on bookshops).

*The interview was originally conducted in Mandarin, and then translated into English. The original Mandarin text follows the translated text below. Translator: Teng Siao See

* s/pores is also deeply grateful to Tan Waln Ching of the City Book Room for her invaluable assistance with preparing the interview transcript. 我们也对感谢 陈婉菁 (城市书房), 对她在准备访问记录副本中给与我们的重要协助感激万分。Check out her essay on City Book Room here: (City Book Room by Tan Waln Ching) (more…)


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The last proper s/pores issue was uploaded in July 2015 – a special issue on Malay culture and society. In some ways, this issue on bookshops is a continuation from this special issue as writers Fadli Fawzi and Faris Joraimi wanted to further explore the topic of Malay literature and ideas, which resulted in their first two articles here: an interview with Ibrahim Tahir, the owner of Wardah bookshop at Kampung Glam and developing from that piece, an essay exploring the intellectual legacy of Kampung Glam.

True to our name, s/pores issues are rather incidental and ‘happen’ along the way much like pollination. The idea of putting together an issue on bookshops as sites of knowledge and nodes for new ideas to spread and disperse began to take shape when we interviewed Mr Yeo San Chai, the boss of the iconic Xinhua bookshop at Bras Basah Complex at the end of 2015. It took a while for the interview to be transcribed, edited and translated into English, but it was worth the wait. (more…)

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“City Book Room”

Tan Waln Ching

Translation of Essay in Mandarin (Below)

City Book Room and me.

City Book Room was featured in a Channel 8 television programme on independent bookshops in Singapore . It was broadcast in August 2016.

I love books, so it is my destiny to be in the publishing and bookshop industry.

I am from Malaysia, and came to Singapore in 2003 when I was admitted into the Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, National University of Singapore. I love the Chinese language. In my second year as an undergraduate, I chose to major in Chinese Studies. I would go to book stores like Great River Book Company, Grassroots Book Room and Shanghai Book Company to buy books that I needed for my classes. I was involved in organizing the Singapore Tertiary Literature Award in 2005 as a student. We invited Yeng Pway Ngon of Grassroots Book Room to be on the panel of judges. I was to get to know Mr Yeng well. (more…)

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Interview with Mr Yeo San Chai (Yeo Oi Sang) of Xinhua Cultural Enterprises (S) Pte Ltd
29 November 2015

Edited by Loh Miao Ping

*Abridged Translation of the Interview, Originally Conducted in Mandarin (Below)

Mr Yeo San Chai in front of Xinhua Cultural Enterprises

The Interior of Xinhua Cultural Enterprises – Brimming with Knowledge and Culture

s/pores: We would like to conduct an interview with you to understand the state of Chinese-language bookshops in Singapore between the 1960s and 1980s. During that period, Chinese-language bookshops were sites of knowledge exchange and cultural transmission, as well as spaces for the spiritual nourishment of readers. When, how, and why did you get involved in bookshops?

Mr Yeo: I was fortunate to be accepted as an apprentice by World Bookstore in 1954. Then, bookshops practiced an apprenticeship system, which nurtured generations of those in the bookshop business. I was fortunate to train with World Bookstore as it provided excellent training, unlike other bookshops. There was a head of department who was in charge of training all personnel, including apprentices, those in the finance department, or at the managerial level. I worked at World Bookstore for 25 years, and left only in 1981, to join the newly established International Books (S) Pte Ltd at Bras Basah Complex, where most Chinese bookshops are located. International Books is no longer around. After I left it, I set up Xinhua Cultural Enterprises (S) Pte Ltd.


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“The Intellectual Legacy of Kampung Glam”

Fadli Fawzi and Faris Joraimi

Kampung Glam today is a mixture of Middle Eastern cafes and shops catering to tourists. It would be difficult to contemplate that the area was once the centre of intellectual life not only of the Malay Muslim community in Singapore but the Malay World. Its historical significance as the premier Malay intellectual space has been obscured by the changes imposed by colonial and post-colonial authorities. In the colonial order, ethnicity was essentialised into monolithic blocs to facilitate divide and rule. Such perceptions shaped the identity of spaces, eventually emphasising one ethnic identity as the chief characteristic of such places over a more complex, multifaceted one. Post-colonial programs of urban development were driven by commercial interests as well as to pursue national policy objectives in areas such as housing.

The Sultan Mosque is a structure synonymous with Kampung Glam. Photographed here in the 1940s, this is how the surrounding area appeared then. Kampung Glam at this time would have been host to the Malay press’ vibrant post-war boom.


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Faris Joraimi

The recognition of the transformative power of knowledge over the human condition has led to many societies’ reverence of the written word. Today, the world turns its back on the paperbound book as the internet allows instantaneous access to the work of scholars past and present. Learning is quick and convenient, but has perhaps bred a generation that ignores the complexities of pertinent issues. Amidst digitised media’s assailment of the modern mind, however stands a set of people that still believes in the grand love affair between people and books. Mr. Ibrahim Tahir is one such person, and the object of his life’s work is simple: to reconcile people with books once more. Ibrahim is a bookseller, and has been plying his trade in an area that was once synonymous with erudition and literary sophistication – Kampong Glam.


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