23. ilb 06. – 16.09.2023
Portrait Alfian Bin Sa'at
© Wild Rice

Alfian Bin Sa’at

Alfian Bin Sa’at was born in Singapore in 1977. A Malay-Muslim of Minang, Javanese and Hakka descent, he is regularly referred to as his country’s “enfant terrible”, known for his provocative works that span the genres of poetry, fiction and plays.  He published his first collection of poetry, ‘One Fierce Hour’ when he was only 21. The book was hailed by ‘The Straits Times’ as “truly a landmark for poetry (in Singapore)” and the author was described by Malaysia’s ‘The New Straits Times’ as “one of the most acclaimed poets in his country … a prankish provocateur, libertarian hipster”. A year later, Alfian Bin Sa’at published a collection of short stories called ‘Corridor’, which was a Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award winner. Seven of the short stories from the collection have been adapted and filmed for television. In 2001, he published his second collection of poetry, ‘A History of Amnesia’, which was shortlisted for a Kiriyama Asia-Pacific Book Prize. The sophomore poetry collection was acclaimed as “one of the most powerful collections by a Singaporean” by ‘The Straits Times’, which commented that the poetry was of a type that reminded “relentlessly of the human potential – and therefore a society’s potential – for shutting our senses to disease we might have helped aggravate, or for daring to look unflinchingly at the roots of our suffering”. At 24, Alfian won both the inaugural National Arts Council-Singapore Press Holdings Golden Point Award for Poetry, as well as the National Arts Council’s Young Artist Award for Literature.

Alfian Bin Sa’at’s interests range from gender politics, to Malay identity, to strategies of resistance to censorship as well as hegemonising discourses. His plays, written in English and Malay, have received broad attention in both Singapore and Malaysia. His first play was produced when he was 19, and he has had a long and fruitful association as a playwright with the socially-conscious English theatre group ‘The Necessary Stage’ as well as ‘Teater Ekamatra’, a Malay theatre group known for articulating minority concerns in Chinese-majority Singapore. Some of his more notable plays include ‘sex.violence.blood.gore’, which suffered from censorship cuts at the hands of the State, ‘Asian Boys Vol.1’ which employed camp aesthetics to examine the homosexual milieu in Singapore, ‘The Optic Trilogy’, an attempt to recuperate personal and idiosyncratic ways of perception under a surveillance State, and ‘Fugitives’, a play about inter-racial relations translated from English and which had its premiere in Mandarin. The latter three plays have been nominated for Best Script at the DBS-Life! Theatre Awards for three consecutive years. Sa’at was a Resident Playwright with W!ld Rice, a theatre company which staged his highly-regarded play, ‘Landmarks: Asian Boys Vol. 2.’, in 2005. In 2006, he received the FRONT Award.

© international literature festival berlin


One fierce Hour
Landmark Books
Singapur, 1998

Raffles Publications
Singapur, 1999

A History of Amnesia
Ethos Books
Singapur, 2001

Übersetzer: Olaf Schenk