Proust Questionnaire: 17 questions with Jeremy Tiang
By Yong Shu Hoong
If you're familiar with Chinese literature, you would have read, or at least heard of, Dream of the Red Chamber. Written by Cao Xueqin during the Qing Dynasty, it is considered one of China's "Four Great Classical Novels".
In the hands of Singapore writer, Jeremy Tiang, it has morphed into an adapted play, 'A Dream of Red Pavilions', where around 500 characters in the source material are reduced to 18, played by a cast of nine actors. This was staged off-Broadway by Pan Asian Repertory Theatre in 2016.
Aside from playwriting, Tiang is making waves as a fiction author. Set against a turbulent backdrop of political upheavals in Singaporean and Malaysian history, his novel, State of Emergency (2017), was a finalist for the Epigram Fiction Book Prize. His short-story collection, It Never Rains on National Day (2015), was shortlisted for the Singapore Literature Prize.
Tiang has also translated, from the Chinese language, more than 10 books including novels by Yeng Pway Ngon, Zhang Yueran and Chan Ho-Kei. He is the Asia Literary Editor at the Asian American Writers' Workshop in New York.
2. If you were a famous literary character in a novel, play, or poem, who would you be, and why?
3. What is the greatest misconception about you?
4. Name one living author and one dead author you identify with most, and tell us why.
5. Do you believe in writer's block? If so, how do you overcome it?
6. What qualities do you admire most in a writer?
7. What is one trait you deplore most in writing or writers?
8. Can you recite your favourite line from a literary work or a piece of advice from a writer?
9. Complete this sentence: Few people know this, but I…
10. At the movies, if you have to pick a comedy, a tragedy, or an action thriller to watch, which will you go for, and why?
11. What is your favourite word, and what is your least favourite one?
12. Write a short-short story in three lines that include the following three words: "rain", "state" and "apex".
13. What object is indispensable to you when you write?
14. What is the best time of the day for writing?
15. If you had a last supper, which three literary figures, real or fictional, would you invite to the soiree, and why?
16. How do your interests in fiction writing and translation feed off each other?
17. What would you write on your own tombstone?