Wong Phui Nam & Sophocles










bust of Sophocles

Wong Phui Nam (b. 1935) studied economics at the University of Malaya in Singapore (now National University of Singapore). After leaving university, he worked mainly in development finance and merchant banking.

His first post-university poems appeared in Bunga Emas, an anthology of Malaysian writing published in the United Kingdom in 1964. The poems were published in book form in 1968 as How the Hills Are Distant. Because the language policies of the time cast serious doubts on writing in English in Malaysia, he was silent over most of the 1970's and 80's. His second volume, Remembering Grandma and Other Rumours, encouraged by Singapore poet Edwin Thumboo, came out in 1989, followed by a 'collected' of the earlier poems, Ways of Exile, in 1993. Against the Wilderness was published in 2000. In 2006, he published An Acre of Day's Glass - Collected Poems and his first play Anike. He has since written Aduni , which is projected to be staged later this year. He has also just completed Darkfall on the morality of politics in Malaysia and a translation/ transposition of Georg Buchner's Woyzeck. Publication of these plays are held pending their staging.

Because literature written in English is marginalised, and deemed by the powers-that-be in Malaysia to be a 'sectional' literature, he has never been considered for any national awards or nominated for international ones for which Malaysian works may be submitted.

Sophocles (496 BC - 406 BC) was the second of the three ancient Greek tragedians whose work has survived to the present day. His first plays were written later than those of Aeschylus, and earlier than those of Euripides. According to the Suda, a 10th century encyclopedia, Sophocles wrote 120 or more plays during the course of his life, but only seven have survived in a complete form, namely Ajax, Antigone, Trachinian Women, Oedipus the King, Electra, Philoctetes and Oedipus at Colonus.

For almost 50 years, Sophocles was the most-awarded playwright in the dramatic competitions of ancient Athens that took place during the religious festivals of the Lenaea and the Dionysia. Sophocles competed in around thirty drama competitions; he won perhaps twenty four and never received lower than second place.