Notes on Why Friends, Why Friendship into Poems


  • Edwin Thumboo, National University of Singapore


History is especially important in a nation that does not have a long past. For the writer who has to work in cross-cultural terms, the study of English Literature would have stressed the importance of a working history, tapped to provide a sense of context, location and continuity. This is the case with Singapore, which is without a direct historical hinterland. But because it is small, economically strong and politically stable, there is need for the writer to construct missing continuities. This he does by looking not only at the past, but also into the present, its multi-racial, multi-ethnic character. For the present case, friends are both the crystallisation and detailing of this precise historical context, essential for the penetration of both contemporary culture as well as their antecedents. They represent experience as well as repository, a combination that makes them excellent conduits. In the case of Singapore, these cultures mean for the writer specifically the Chinese, Indian, Malay and Eurasian.


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Author Biography

Edwin Thumboo, National University of Singapore

Edwin Thumboo, Emeritus Professor, Professorial Fellow, National University of Singapore, has been involved in Singapore’s literary developments since 1951. He has published six volumes of poetry, most recently Word-Gate (privately printed for his 80th birthday). He is currently working on notes towards a biography and poems devoted to biblical themes. His most recent award was the Sunthorn Phu Award (2013, Thailand). He was Eminent Visiting Professor at Universiti Brunei Darussalam (Jan-Jun 2013). His recent interview with GSP Rao is available on the Muse India website <>.  




How to Cite

Thumboo, National University of Singapore, E. (2013). Notes on Why Friends, Why Friendship into Poems. Asiatic: IIUM Journal of English Language and Literature, 7(2), 139–157. Retrieved from



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