Raffles Reviews: A Look at Fiction’s Proudest Social Commentary

by Noor Adilah (17S06B)

“Writing at its best is a bridge constructed across the abyss of human loneliness.”

The good people over at Raffles Debate are currently running Raffles Reviews, a beautiful Instagram page documenting the books Rafflesians read and their personal thoughts regarding these books. Press has teamed up with Debate to further this literary leap by contributing theme and genre based summaries to introduce readers to the books featured in Reviews.

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A lineup of literary lovers.

This week, Press writes about social commentary in fiction.

The greatest books that define fiction and shape human history are able to comment on the social issues of their generation. The authors outshine their contemporaries because they deeply understand the tensions in society and address them through fiction, as a document of the fears and hopes of the people – so that they may let these tensions be known, to make a statement loud and clear: here are our voices, let them be heard.

It isn’t surprising that these books are the reason why cliched sayings like “the pen is mightier than the sword” often ring true. Sometimes, they may do more to sway minds and hearts than even the most violent of confrontations.

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Qiu Jiayu (16S06A) with a Singapore favourite, the Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew.

The story of the human struggle for equality, independence and freedom are timeless and repeat through the years. We quote “all animals are equal, but some are more equal than others” because it doesn’t just apply to the Soviet regime of the 1920s. This same sentiment echoes in the inequalities and injustices that occur in our world today. We always look back to find the same struggles in fiction from the past the way we confide in close friends who have gone through the same problems as us. Somewhere deep inside of us all is a human agency that crosses language, geography and time itself.

“Here’s a thing that is hard to imagine: being so inventive a writer that when you die, the language is impoverished.”

Raffles Reviews has photographed several social commentaries on their Instagram account, such as The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor, JM Coetzee’s Foe and even a local alternative, The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew. We recommend that you get copies of these great books and start reading.

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Sarthak Panwar (16S05A) with an Indian intrigue, The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor.

 

Our Social Commentary Pick: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

“Here’s a thing that is hard to imagine: being so inventive a writer that when you die, the language is impoverished.” – This is what John Jeremiah Sullivan had to say about the late David Foster Wallace, writer of Infinite Jest, the gargantuan, epic book which defines our generation.

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The late David Foster Wallace, a genius of our generation. [Photo: GQ]
Infinite Jest addresses problems surrounding corporate America and beyond, discussing everything from drug addiction, tennis academies and film theory to wheelchair-bound secret intelligence agencies, ideas of worship in secular countries, and the anxieties of the suicidal. It comes to no surprise that this author is now regarded as one of the greatest authors of our generation. He deeply empathised and absorbed himself in the human struggle, understanding the simplest human bonds that form the issues in our societies and define us and our struggles. To quote the man himself: “Writing at its best is a bridge constructed across the abyss of human loneliness.”

Check out Raffles Reviews here for more interesting reads.
All photos credited to Raffles Debaters unless stated otherwise

Books mentioned:
Animal Farm by George Orwell
The Great Indian Novel by Shashi Tharoor
Foe by JM Coetzee
The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye by Sonny Liew
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

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