Published by Penguin Books in New Zealand, Ming Cher’s Spider Boys (1995) attracted considerable controversy due to its representation of 1950s Singaporean vernacular. Much of this controversy revolved around the author’s migrant status in New Zealand, issues of authenticity, and the exoticization of a Singaporean past for a Western audience. Cher was awarded the Buddle Findlay Sargeson Fellowship, and his novel was given national literary recognition in New Zealand despite the narrative of the novel being entirely set in Singapore. In 2012, a heavily edited version of the novel was released by the Singapore publisher Epigram Books, as one novel in a series of “Singaporean classics.” By tracing the literary “life span” of Cher’s novel, Lim argues that the two “English” editions of the novel are rightfully translations that allow for radical refigurations of the text in fulfillment of New Zealand’s and Singapore’s respective multiculturalist and cosmopolitan aspirations. By adapting expatriation and repatriation, Lim proposes that both editions can be critically and comparatively reconciled as self-reflexive responses to nationalist and linguistic anxieties arising from an origin consciousness and the perceived need to undo the imprint of linguistic imperialism through literature. The concepts of expatriation and repatriation, with their connotations of travel, movement, and adaptation, illuminate the global literary career of the translingual and intralingual novel, the collaborative management of this career across editions, and the continuities and discontinuities that sustain such a career across nationstate boundaries.
Lim, Eunice Ying Ci
"“Twice-Nationalized”: The Expatriation and Repatriation of Ming Cher’s Spider Boys,"
Antipodes: Vol. 33:
2, Article 10.
Available at: https://digitalcommons.wayne.edu/antipodes/vol33/iss2/10