Portrait of the artist as a young man April 27, 2015 13:30
Goh Poh Seng with his wife, Margaret, on the front steps of their home in Vancouver. Image courtesy of the Estate of Goh Poh Seng.
GOH POH SENG was a literary pioneer. He wrote Singapore's first novel If We Dream Too Long (1972) which depicts the hopes and frustrations of young people in the newly independent country.
He also wrote the 1966 play about family life titled When Smiles Are Done, which represents an early attempt to capture Singlish on stage. To do that, he spent a year and a half "hanging around public places with a tape recorder and listening to how people spoke".
Goh died in 2010 at the age of 73. But even though he was diagnosed with Parkinson's disease in 1995, he continued to write short stories, a number of which appear in this new book published posthumously by Ridge Books of NUS Press.
Tall Tales and Misadventures of a Young Westernized Oriental Gentleman is a collection of stories about his student days in 1950s Ireland where he had been sent at the age of 16 by his Malaysian family to study towards becoming a doctor.
It appears that it was in Ireland that Goh truly came of age. Bright, curious and cocky (he refers to himself as a "sexy fellow"), he led a bohemian lifestyle despite having earlier converted to Catholicism "on account of acute loneliness and homesickness".