Paul Theroux's St. Jack on Old Singapore

Shophouses in the Early Evening

It was early lighted evening, that pleasant glareless time of day just before sunset; the moon showed in a blue sky -- a pale gold sickle on its back -- and it was possible to stroll through the mild air without hunching over and squinting away from the sun. It was the only hour when the foliage was not tinged with hues of sickly yellow; trees were denser, green and cool. All the two-storey Chinese houses set in courtyards along Cuppage Road had their doors and green shutters open for the breeze, and there was a sense of slowed activity, almost of languor, that sight at dusk of men in pajamas -- the uniform of the peace-loving -- produces in me.[46]

The Singapore Climate in the Morning (on the day of a Funeral)

The heat oppressed me. We were not in sunlight, but sweating in the mid-morning Singapore veil of dim steam that makes a gray tent of the slumping sky and nothing on the ground solid. There was nothing worse, I was thinking, than a cremation on a hot day in the tropics. It had all the inappropriateness of a man puffing on a pipe in a burning house. [66]

Transplanted Chinese Culture in Singapore

Singapore was very old then, not in years but in attitude and design because of the way that the immigrants had transplanted and continued their Chinese cities, duplicating Foochow in one district, Fukien in a another. As a feller who'd seen Naples and Palermo duplicated in the North End of Boston, down to building styles, hawker's cries, gangster practices and patron saints, I understood the traditional instinct to preserve. . . . It was that atmosphere that had been exported with the immigrants from China and the olde-world style of the city's subdivision into districts. To say that there was only one street in Singapore where you could buy a mattress is to describe the rigidness of the pattern; ship-chandlers occupied one street, coffin-makers another, banks another, printeries another. [124, 126]


Paul Theroux, St. Jack.[1st ed. 1973] London: Penguin, 1987.

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