The Last Immigrant by Lau Siew Mei
English | 2019 | General Fiction/Classics | ePUB | 622 Kb
The Last Immigrant : Longlisted for the 2016 Epigram Books Fiction Prize
By the author of Playing Madame Mao, hailed by Time magazine as “one of the best novels ever written about Singapore”.
Ismael, a transplanted Singaporean, lives on a bucolic suburban Brisbane street. His job is to decide whether asylum-seekers get to stay in the country, a dilemma that never fails to remind him of his own immigrant status. But then his life begins to take on the hue of a nightmare: his neighbour inexplicably commits suicide, his wife dies of cancer, his daughter abandons him for the United States, and his Siamese cat goes missing.
In Lau Siew Mei’s new novel, an enclosed Australian neighbourhood becomes a microcosm of a world increasingly hostile towards migrants.
“A caterwauling arose in the street. It sounded like a catfight. Possibly a comfort of cats, he thought wryly. Nat looked tired. There were heavy dark rings weighing down her eyes. They made him think of the heavy earrings worn by some tribes. He realised with a little shock that he had not looked closely at his wife in a while.
“Thank you,” he said, feeling slightly ashamed. “Thanks for being so strong.”
Nat’s lips twisted slightly into a smile.
“The term of every life is fixed,” Ismael murmured. That was also in the Koran. So why did Cephas take matters into his own hands?
He asked this aloud. A pause ensued.
He knew he was upsetting her though she did not show it.
“I wonder how long the term of my life is,” Nat finally said.
Ismael drank his tea and did not reply. Nat’s question had sounded rhetorical. She sighed and moved to where Ismael sat on the sofa and put an arm over his shoulder.
“Better to let it out,” she urged. “If you don’t cry, it’ll eat up your insides.”
But Ismael’s tears poured out of his body as sweat. He closed his eyes and tried to imagine Cephas as he was, not with the empty face and shrunken body as he had last seen him.”