Edwin Thumboo's Heritages and Early Influences

Ee Tiang Hong

Edwin Thumboo's conception of history is an amalgam of many ingredients, formed around the two cultures he inherited, and associated with their social, literary, historical and political parameters. Much of it was also a consequence of his personal history, and his pursuing various interests in the university over and above the History and English Literature majors and a Philosophy minor. Lectures by the historian, K.G. Tregonning, who later became Raffles Professor of History, widened his interest in history, particularly that of Southeast Asia. This sense of the past and his awareness of the need to write as a Singaporean about Singapore in the present and for the future have been the guiding impulse in the development of his writing. They come across in the range of symbol, image, metaphor and resonance in his poetry and the direction he is committed to in his writing as a whole.l3 An asset he shares with some of his contemporaries is the multicultural past they embody by inheritance or enculturation in daily social transactions. Retaining English, both as a facet of their identity and as a tried and tested instrument, they yet have access to an almost fathomless reservoir of resources. Besides metaphor and rhythm, there are also concepts that have a broad application, e.g., the Malay notion of rasa (feeling), the Tamil dualism of aham (inner) and puram (outer) worlds among countless others that Thumboo can draw from. [15]

The preceding passage has been quoted from the late Ee Tiang Hong's Responsibility and Commitment: The Poetry of Edwin Thumboo, ed. Leong Liew Geok (Singapore: Centre for Advanced Studies/Singapore University Press, 1997. It can be ordered from Singapore University Press, 10 Kent Ridge, Singapore 119260 [GPL].

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