Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Beyond The (Yorkshire) Pudding

Mention 'Yorkshire' and the first thing that comes to my mind is 'pudding'. Forgive me for the simplistic association with this historic county - one of the UK's most exciting and vibrant counties. Beyond its pudding, I'm sure this county of about 5 million people has lots more treasures to boast of. Yorkshire's after all been nicknamed 'God's own county', and God surely wouldn't pick it as His own if the proof was only literally in the pudding.

Yorkshire and Singapore, though separated by almost 11000 kilometres, is linked by the sea and the latter's colonial past. I was today most privileged to witness the coming together of two communities in the first ever cultural exchange programme between Yorkshire and Singapore. The ceremony at Keppel Bay Marina though without pomp and pageantry was significant as it involved the gifting of prize-winning literature. The Chief Executive of the National Library Board, Dr N. Varaprasad, was on hand to receive from Chief Executive of Welcome to Yorkshire Mr Gary Verity, a rare 1877 antique edition of the English classic Wuthering Heights from the Bronte Parsonage Museum. This emblematic gift was printed just 30 years after the novel by Emily Bronte was completed and published in 1847. In preparation for my chat with Dr Varaprasad and Gary, I came to learn that 'wuthering' is a Yorkshire word that refers to 'turbulent weather'! That makes us, yes, you and me, just about the only enlightened Singaporeans around!

An exchange isn't quite one if it's one sided is it? So this is where award-winning local author Su-Chen Christine Lim comes into the picture. The first author to win the inaugural Singapore Literature Prize in 1992 had the honour of presenting a copy of her critically acclaimed novel Fistful of Colours to Gary. What are her thoughts and impressions of Yorkshire and Singapore, and the two novels that have been exchanged?

"On the surface, Yorkshire and Singapore seem worlds apart. One is known for its brooding moors, the other for its city spaces. Yet the two novels, Wuthering Heights and Fistful of Colours chosen for this historic cultural exchange, share universal themes like love, passion and betrayal. Both critically acclaimed novels reveal history, culture and spirit of the land and its people. And although written in a different time and context, both novels will deepen the reader's understanding of passion, love and art."

To view the symbolic gift of the 1877 edition of Wuthering Heights, it will be housed for public review at the National Library of Singapore on Level 7 from 1st to 28th February 2010.

Before I wrap up this entry, and as if to convince me that Yorkshire was famed for more foods than just the pudding, I walked away from the literature exchange not only with the essential Living Room interview recorded on-site and some photos to show for, but tea time delights from out of the county.

I'm sold on a visit to Yorkshire sooner than later! How about you?

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