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The Singapore Grip (New York Review Books Classics) Paperback – January 31, 2005
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"A brilliant, complex, richly absurd and melancholy monument to the follies and splendours of Empire."
— Hilary Spurling
"[This] vivid, multi-dimensional portrait of Singapore…is a superbly constructed book, enjoyable on many different levels."
— The Sunday Times
"In Singapore…Farrell makes a heroic and memorable attempt to portray and understand not only the Japanese, but also the lives of the millions of poor, oppressed, displaced and dying whose destruction came about through no fault of their own, who were swept helplessly away by the tides of commercial interest and war."
— Margaret Drabble
"The author of the Booker Prize-winning The Siege of Krishnapur sets this brilliant work in Singapore in 1939, as an old English firm tries to cash in on the impending world war. A complex, often funny meditation on empire and other matters."
— Martin Levin, The Globe and Mail
"No writer has swallowed all of Singapore, from its stately colonial bungalows to its once opium-infested slums, with the verve and wit of the late J.G. Farrell, whose 1978 saga The Singapore Grip remains the great Singapore novel...Farrell's pungent aroma still fleetingly hovers over today's city...With his gentle wit Farrell captures the soul of Singapore: a polyglot Asian port, still partly under the sleepy sway of its British colonial past, and still lurching toward an uncertain future with a furious, irresistible energy."
About the Author
Derek Mahon was born in Belfast in 1941, studied at Trinity College, Dublin, and the Sorbonne, and has held journalistic and academic appointments in London and New York. He has received numerous awards, including the Irish Times/Aer Lingus Poetry Prize, the Irish Academy of Letters Award, the Scott Moncrieff and Aristeion translation prizes, and Lannan and Guggenheim fellowships. His Collected Poems were published in 1999 and Harbour Lights, a volume of new poetry, was published in 2006.
Top Customer Reviews
As war edges closer the air of unreality gets thicker. Even when the Japanese attack Malaya in late 1941, these people just don't get it. Singapore Grip explores this world in detail and from many different perspectives. The higher in the colonial hierarchy, the harder it is for reality to penetrate. Walter Blackett, scion and head delusionist is still planning the company's 50th Jubilee while the Japanese are bombing the island and even Singapore town proper.
`Singapore Grip' is a vignette in what Huxley called "the descending road of modern history". The war gathers slowly, life begins to change, but not dramatically at first. But, the vise inexorably tightens and the world of the characters crumbles under the relentless pressure. Escape from the island seems at first an absurd idea, but it gradually becomes ever more desirable until it finally becomes impossible in the crush at the quays.
If you are tempted to turn away from this book, don't. `Singapore Grip' gathers force and clarity as Farrell slowly adds the pieces to his masterful mosaic and the reader is duly rewarded. The book has been recently reprinted in the excellent New York Review of Books Classics series. Highly recommended.
"Once the Japanese expanded throughout the region after Pearl Harbour (December 1941), many in Britain felt that Singapore would become an obvious target for the Japanese. However, the British military command in Singapore was confident that the power they could call on there would make any Japanese attack useless. One story told about the attitude of the British Army in Singapore was of a young Army officer complaining that the newly completed defences in Singapore might put off the Japanese from landing there.
"'I do hope we are not getting too strong in Malaya because if so the Japanese may never attempt a landing.'
"British troops stationed in Singapore were also told that the Japanese troops were poor fighters; alright against soldiers in China who were poor fighters themselves, but of little use against the might of the British Army.
"The Japanese onslaught through the Malay Peninsula took everybody by surprise. Speed was of the essence for the Japanese, never allowing the British forces time to re-group. This was the first time British forces had come up against a full-scale attack by the Japanese. Any thoughts of the Japanese fighting a conventional form of war were soon shattered. The British had confidently predicted that the Japanese would attack from the sea. This explained why all the defences on Singapore pointed out to sea. It was inconceivable to British military planners that the island could be attacked any other way - least of all, through the jungle and mangrove swamps of the Malay Peninsula. But this was exactly the route the Japanese took." ...Read more ›
"The Singapore Grip" is a social satire as incisive and entertaining as some of Evelyn Waugh's better books and certainly as good in capturing the cracks in the facade of empire building and maintenance. The story opens in the late 1930s with an unsparing look at the British business community which was running the Malaya/Burma/Singapore branches of the colonial empire and which was focused entirely on the maximum exploitation of the natural resources of those territories on behalf of the metropole, and very much at the expense of the native populations. That ruthless selfish behavior is boasted of and lionized by "...Grip's" business characters. The same characters speak of the "virtues" of classism, racism, anti-intellectualism, anti-humanism--and the list goes on. Entering the scene is the scion of one of an important Singapore business family who is a relative naif to all of this, having labored fruitlessly for a number of years for the League of Nations. He becomes the ineffective critic of all the much-prized bad behavior of his peers, but also a bridge to the local native population and hence to some kind of sanity and humaneness.
While the war of manners goes on and economic exploitation continues unabated, the Japanese are closing in the colonial territories.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Was an excellent, if dry, almost a minute by minute account of the events leading up to the invasion of Singapore. Almost all in the voice of the narrator. Read morePublished 10 days ago by Nancy El
Fascinating story of colonialism and the early years of World War II in what once was "Malaya." Lays bare both the evils of capitalist colonialism and, often kindly, of human... Read morePublished 2 months ago by David Whiteside
The manager of a trading company and his family in colonial Singapore during the late 1930s.
The story move along in a quite languid pace. Read more
I like reading books that are set in places where I happen to be traveling. I read this one shortly after visiting various WWII monuments in Singapore, and appreciated the way the... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Kay Cee
The Singapore Grip tells the story of the fall of Singapore to the Japanese during World War II, as seen from the view of characters inhabiting the heart of British Imperialism. Read morePublished 7 months ago by isecond
What's stayed with me after completing this novel and the two previous books in the "Empire Trilogy" has to be how strongly delivered each story has been. Read morePublished 9 months ago by Cphe
While I knew this writer is well-regarded I found this book unnecessarily wordy. He often went off on tangents that did not move the plot along.Published 10 months ago by L-lenox
This book is historically interesting and humanly exciting. What pathos and irony!!! It starts with a stereotypical look at a slice of the Britsh colonial experience and develops... Read morePublished 10 months ago by Gordon Alan Joseph
It took a while for the novel to win me over, but by the end I must applaud it as both a wonderful though unconventional historical novel as well as a highly entertaining portrayal... Read morePublished 11 months ago by R. M. Peterson