In Transit: An Anthology

In Transit: An Anthology

In Transit: An Anthology, is a collection of short stories, essays and poetry using Singapore’s Changi airport as either their focus or launchpad.

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Zhang Ruihe and Yu-Mei Balasingamchow have edited a collection of snappy and intriguing pieces, from the whimsical, to the heart-wrenching, to the grim.

Who knew an airport could be so ripe as a backdrop for stories? Writers in the collection tease out wide-ranging issues relating to identity, nationalism, class and relationships. Through the airport’s prism we see Singaporean families grow together and grow apart; lives shift and resettle as characters swing through the exit and entrance door to the stage of life in the city state.

Every person at Changi has a story, either about where they’re going or where they have come from, in reality or metaphorically. But this anthology frequently takes the route of the less obvious, giving us the perspectives on life of the trolley uncle, the airport screener, the flight attendant, the immigrant Indian labourer… perhaps people the typical traveller doesn’t see as they craft their own individual stories, suspended in that arc—like purgatory, one protagonist describes it—that takes them door to door on their own journey. But travellers do feature, too, as their distance from Singapore paradoxically allows for their reflections on home to click into sharp focus.

As the informative introductions to In Transit explain, Changi airport was pivotal to Singapore’s development and has been, to date, possibly its most famous product; it’s not a stretch to say that once a traveller has been to Changi, other airports typically won’t measure up. While having the airport as a constant could have been contrived, it feels like a natural focus and instead serves as a point of commonality between Singaporeans and the reader; if they haven’t been to Changi, they have almost certainly heard of it.

The writing is lyrical, too:

“For as long as Ah Tee could remember, he had been watching the horizon from his bedroom window in Bedok North, 21 storeys up. The view was of a layered cake: a green base, topped with sand sponge topped with marzipan blue, on which tiny boats drifted beneath clouds of icing.”

And the pieces as a whole create a reflection on what Singapore and being Singaporean means, with outsiders lending their voice to create a well-rounded interrogation:

“Harjinder wondered now, sitting in the giant glorified waiting room dressed up as a shopping paradise that was Changi Airport Terminal 2, waiting for a plane to take him back to the only place where he felt he belonged, but that could not afford him the luxury of a paying job, what it was like for these young people, who were growing roots in a place that was constantly cutting those roots off, bringing in people like him and Veera to build, demolish and rebuild the city in an unending cycle.”

If you’ve flown through Changi, or you plan to, snap up this collection by these excellent Singaporean writers. And be warned: someone may very well be observing you as a character the next time you flit through the airport yourself.


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108 results found

Burma (Myanmar)

Burmese Days
Burmese Days

By George Orwell

Finding George Orwell
Finding George Orwell

By Emma Larkin

Miss Burma
Miss Burma

By Charmaine Craig

The Glass Palace
The Glass Palace

By Amitav Ghosh

The Trouser People
The Trouser People

By Andrew Marshall

Cambodia

Dogs at the Perimeter
Dogs at the Perimeter

By Madeleine Thien

Holiday in Cambodia
Holiday in Cambodia

By Laura Jean McKay

Hun Sen’s Cambodia
Hun Sen’s Cambodia

By Sebastian Strangio

Hunters in the Dark
Hunters in the Dark

By Lawrence Osborne

King Norodom's Head
King Norodom's Head

By Steven W. Boswell

River of Time
River of Time

By Jon Swain

The Gate
The Gate

By Francoise Bizot

Indonesia

A House in Bali
A House in Bali

By Colin McPhee

Beauty is a Wound
Beauty is a Wound

By Eka Kurniawan

Black Water
Black Water

By Louise Doughty

Home
Home

By Leila S. Chudori

In the Time of Madness
In the Time of Madness

By Richard Lloyd Parry

Indonesia Etc.
Indonesia Etc.

By Elizabeth Pisani

On the Java Ridge
On the Java Ridge

By Jock Serong

Ring of Fire
Ring of Fire

By Lawrence Blair

The Malay Archipelago
The Malay Archipelago

By Alfred Russel Wallace

The Rainbow Troops
The Rainbow Troops

By Andrea Hirata

The Year of Living Dangerously
The Year of Living Dangerously

By Christopher J. Koch

This Earth of Mankind
This Earth of Mankind

By Pramoedya Ananta Toer

Under the Volcano
Under the Volcano

By Cameron Forbes

Laos

Malaysia

Singapore

Crazy Rich Asians
Crazy Rich Asians

By Kevin Kwan

From Third World to First
From Third World to First

By Lee Kuan Yew

If I Could Tell You
If I Could Tell You

By Jing-Jing Lee

Sarong Party Girls
Sarong Party Girls

By Cheryl Lu-Lien Tan

Singapore Noir
Singapore Noir

By Cheryl Lu-Tien Tan

State of Emergency
State of Emergency

By Jeremy Tiang

Sugarbread
Sugarbread

By Balli Kaur Jaswal

The Tower
The Tower

By Isa Kamari (translated by Alfian Sa'at)

Thailand

A Tiger in Eden
A Tiger in Eden

By Chris Flynn

Bangkok Found
Bangkok Found

By Alex Kerr

Hothouse Flower
Hothouse Flower

By Lucinda Riley

Jasmine Nights
Jasmine Nights

By S.P. Somtow

Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind
Mai Pen Rai Means Never Mind

By Carol Hollinger

Many Lives
Many Lives

By M.R Kukrit Pramoj

Sightseeing
Sightseeing

By Rattawut Lapcharoensap

Thai Street Food
Thai Street Food

By David Thompson

The Beach
The Beach

By Alex Garland

The Drinking Food of Thailand
The Drinking Food of Thailand

By Andy Ricker with JJ Goode

The Narrow Road to the Deep North
The Narrow Road to the Deep North

By Richard Flanagan

The Sad Part Was
The Sad Part Was

By Prabda Yoon

The Windup Girl
The Windup Girl

By Paolo Bacigalupi

Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture
Very Thai: Everyday Popular Culture

By Philip Cornwel-Smith

Vietnam

Bright Shining Lie
Bright Shining Lie

By Neil Sheehan

Destination Saigon
Destination Saigon

By Walter Mason

Dragon Apparent
Dragon Apparent

By Norman Lewis

Fishing for Tigers
Fishing for Tigers

By Emily Maguire

The Lover
The Lover

By Marguerite Duras

The Quiet American
The Quiet American

By Graham Greene

The Refugees
The Refugees

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Sorrow of War
The Sorrow of War

By Bao Ninh

The Sympathizer
The Sympathizer

By Viet Thanh Nguyen

The Things They Carried
The Things They Carried

By Tim O’Brien

When the War Was Over
When the War Was Over

By Elizabeth Becker

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