How Writing Became My Catharsis by Khor Kuan Liang


The future is not so bright for Singapore – or maybe it is a little too bright, as it has been ravaged by an environmental catastrophe. In this harsh setting, a group of survivors rescue a boy and his robot on their way to the safe haven at Kallang Basin. However, their very presence may have doomed the group. 
That is the premise of Kallang Basin Adagio, written by educator and first-time author Khor Kuan Liang. The book was longlisted for the 2017 Epigram Books Fiction Prize. Here, the author shares what inspired him to write his debut novel. 

 

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For me, writing this novel was a vital form of catharsis, a therapeutic experience that lent me a ray of light amidst the darkness.

Growing up, my childhood and adolescent years became marred by various forces of oppression; for instance, many subjects in school (including Music, Art and Crafts) were regimented and stifling, making me look to the future with dread. I often felt that instead of nurturing one’s creativity, this only resulted in the severe limiting of one’s imagination. It seemed as though I was merely being programmed to become another institution-manufactured automaton, rather than a child with real potential that could be developed in a myriad of ways.

Though I felt stunted by the oppressiveness of my environment – which seemed to become even more pronounced as time passed – I clung adamantly to a tenuous sense of hope, which eventually gave rise to the birth of this novel

It was such hope that sustained me through seemingly unbearable bleakness, much like the human characters in the novel who despite overwhelming uncertainties, remained obstinate in their attempts at journeying to the Kallang Basin while stubbornly clinging to the belief that it would be the sanctuary they desperately sought amidst a world that had crumbled all around them.

With my freedom constricted and individuality adversely affected, I turned to writing as a form of solace.

Yet even this solace came with cynicism. Cynics had their doubts; doubts that were projected on me, making one feel that becoming a published novelist was simply out of reach.

And that inspired me with the idea of machines embarking on musical and artistic endeavours, on behalf of humans who were stifled by oppressive forces: In this sense, my humanoid protagonist Doll represents a personal desire to transcend the worldly limitations and constraints I felt. 

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