The Desire For Elsewhere – Agnes Chew

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I travelled to Singapore with a friend recently and while there, a lot of the places on my to-visit list were bookshops, seeing which our host at one point exclaimed wondering why we would buy books in Singapore when Amazon exists, also what was so special about Singaporean literature? 

This book is the answer to that question.

When Agnes Chew talks of the need to move and the duality of hellos and goodbyes, I find in it a version of myself – someone who wants to keep moving just as much she wants to stay. 

You are filled with longing for a time in which you still belong – yet rapidly passing – and suddenly, you find yourself caught in the shifting planes of transitory world’s, desperately willing the moment to last forever. Everything passes you by in a blur. Each scene flickers to the next like unprocessed film called from the depths of a dusty darkroom. Everything feels distant, surreal”.

The author writes with a structure that is refreshing, she picks up her stories akin to picking flowers and puts them into the basket of retrospections. In the very beginning she defines herself as the archeologist of her past, and that is what makes the book so personal yet universal, because who amongst us hasn’t felt like that?
We are indeed the keepers of our stories and experiences. 

Prose and Poetry find each other effortlessly within the book; almost as if the experiences were steering the way, this ease comes across to the reader and makes reading about Kavindu in Sri Lanka talking of his fondness for his deceased father, or the unnamed man from Myanmar who wanted to find his way back to his family along with Nghia in Vietnam who dreams of exploration do not just come across as shocking short narrations but as stories filled with empathy and substance of the humane.

It is a book that leaves you with a feeling of being unfinished, and the author does it in the best way – with a space to explore yourself, to find yourself within the words but also borrow feelings from it and introspect personal journeys.  

I will borrow Agnes Chew’s poem to explain it best – 

 
I Fear the Moment When Everything is Said

I fear the moment when everything is said
for it would render all of imagination dead
and between the lines would lay nothing to be read;
shall we let unspoken magic wash over us instead?

I fear the moment when everything is said
for we of that time would then begin to fade
and no longer for us would there be paths ahead;
could you see the ghosts that gradually take shape?

I fear the moment when everything is said
for the beauty lies in a future so vague,
each word, a song, a lightness unlike lead;
might this all have existed only in my head?

 
I highly recommend this book, I found this book at BooksActually (a bookshop I will be raving about in another post, soon). For those not in the Singapore, you can find the book online. 

Check out the attached link, and get yourselves a new journey to delve into.

“Everything passes you by in a blur. Each scene flickers to the next like unprocessed film called from the depths of a dusty darkroom. Everything feels distant, surreal”.

— Agnes Chew