Han Suyin lives on in translation scholarship

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 29, 2013

TO MARK the first anniversary of of the death of writer Han Suyin next month, Nanyang Technological University (NTU) is launching a translation scholarship fund in her name and organising a forum on her contributions in the field of translation.

The two events by NTU's School of Humanities and Social Sciences in memory of the former Nanyang University (Nantah) lecturer will be held simultaneously at NTU's Chinese Heritage Centre in Jurong on Nov 16.

The China-born, Eurasian doctor-turned-writer died in Lausanne, Switzerland, aged 95.

Best known for her 1952 novel A Many Splendored Thing, she is remembered by many Nantah graduates as a leftist-leaning lecturer who supported the birth of Nantah in 1953.

Nantah merged with the former University of Singapore to become the National University of Singapore in 1980, but the following year, its sprawling campus in Jurong was taken over by the Nanyang Technological Institute (NTI).

NTI became NTU in 1991.

The university's chair of Humanities and Social Sciences, Professor Liu Hong, 51, said it was Han's adopted daughter in Singapore, Madam Chew Hui Im, a 75-year-old retired school teacher, who mooted the idea of the scholarship fund.

One $8,000 scholarship will be given annually to a NTU undergraduate doing translation studies as a minor subject in the following semester.

With a personal donation from Madam Chew and money from friends that was matched 1.5 times by the Government, the endowment fund now stands at about $500,000.

Prof Liu hoped more Nantah and NTU alumni would donate to boost the sum to at least $1 million.

It would help realise the school's goal to extend the scholarship to students on the master's degree programme in translation and interpretation that it plans to introduce, he added.

Madam Chew said she hoped the scholarship could help raise the standard of Chinese-English translation in Singapore.

"It was my mother's wish all her life to see good Chinese-English translation in Singapore as well as China," she added.

Ms Sim Ann, Minister of State for Education as well as Communications and Information, said: "Her mother's legacy will undoubtedly inspire more to pursue excellence in the area.''

She added: "The Government, too, values good translation and intends to strengthen translation capabilities through supporting professional development."

Han, who wrote more than 40 books, was proficient in Chinese, English and French.

She left Singapore in 1966 to live in Switzerland with her third husband, Colonel Vincent Ruthnaswamy.

Three academics from China and Lianhe Zaobao journalist Ina Zhang, who interviewed Han in Switzerland shortly before she died last year, will speak at the Nov 16 forum.

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 29, 2013

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