The Epigram Books Fiction Prize was launched in 2015 to encourage the writing of novels with the hope that it will one day uncover the great Singaporean novel.
Over a submission period of six months, we received 69 manuscripts written by Singaporeans, permanent residents and ex-Singaporeans. The number was as unexpected as it was welcomed. And it strengthened our resolve in cultivating and championing Singaporean literature.
We were impressed with the quality of the submissions, as well as the range of genres covered. After a lengthy assessment of all the scripts, four stood out for their plots, prose and protagonists.
On 5 November 2015, we honoured their work in a ceremony held at the Pan Pacific Singapore, and are confident that all four finalists will pave the way to a more vibrant literary scene in Singapore.
The 2015 Winner
O Thiam Chin is the author of four short story collections and one flash fiction collection. In 2012, he was conferred the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award for Literary Arts. His collection of short stories, Love, Or Something Like Love, was shortlisted fir the 2014 Singapore Literature Prize.
Despite a background of short stories, Thiam Chin found it natural to progress to writing a novel. “I think a novel is the Everest for most writers and it was a mountain I had to climb to see what I’m capable of.” The idea for this novel was first conceived when he was visiting Thailand in 2004, when the Asian tsunami hit uncomfortably close to home.
“[It made me realise that] when disaster strikes, we can lose certain things. I thought about how everything is interconnected and you never know how things will play out in real life.” With this in mind, he started writing Now That It’s Over in 2010 and completed it in 2014.
Now That It’s Over
Xiang wakes up in his hotel room in an unnamed coastal town in Thailand to find the other side of his bed empty and his wife, Ling, gone. A look outside the window stuns him as he realises that a tsunami has hit the island.
Xiang and Ling aren’t the only couple who have been torn apart—their friends Cody and Seng have likewise been separated. The trip, planned by Ling, was intended to offer the two couples a much-needed break from the daily tedium of home and the slow fatigue of relationships showing signs of strain.
Told in alternating chapters with different perspectives, the novel chronicles their lives from childhood to the present time. Faced with the physical and emotional wreckage wrought by the tsunami, Xiang, Ling, Cody and Seng are forced to confront their personal demons and face the truth about themselves and their decaying relationships.