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Don't underestimate value of studying local literature

The need to support local literature should not be underestimated ("Support local literature, it's a part of us" by Ms Lim Peng Peng; Feb 10).

The benefits of studying local literature are obvious: It enables students and adults alike to identify with local themes, languages, creeds, settings, cultures, identities and lifestyles, as well as national issues and perspectives.

There is no doubt that Singaporean characters in Singaporean locations dealing with Singaporean issues convey the sense of our country and the character of its people as shaped by time and history.

One hears the hopes, fears and angst of ordinary people - the pulse and soul of a nation - as the stories mirror the society around us. These local works across languages enhance our national fabric and identity as a people.

A fine example of this is the novel Flowers At Dawn by Singai Ma Elangkannan, a Cultural Medallion recipient.

It tells the tale of a people brought up during the wartime period in colonial Singapore, their experiences and the colony's transition into a successful and prosperous nation.

Originally written in Tamil, then translated into English and Malay, broadcast on radio and made into a television drama, this novel draws from cultures that inhabit multiple spaces, cultures and identities.

The National Library Board is to be commended for gifting more than 10,000 books written on Singapore or by authors here to libraries in many countries, as part of the SG50 Gift of Books initiative.

Kudos also to the Ministry of Education, the National University of Singapore and other tertiary institutions for offering courses in local literature.

Local literature is vital to preserving our rich heritage. Sometimes, we underestimate its importance in the history that is continually evolving in Singapore.

My hope is that literature will gain more traction as we evolve into a more gracious society.

V. Subramaniam (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on February 19, 2017, with the headline 'Don't underestimate value of studying local literature'. Print Edition | Subscribe