Glass Cathedral: Gay Novel or Liberation Theology? An Interview with Andrew Koh
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Singaporean Andrew Koh was a founding member of the groundbreaking Necessary Stage theatre company in 1987. In Singapore he is best remembered as the author of Glass Cathedral (1995), Singapore's second gay novel[la], which won the 1994 Singapore Literature Prize Commendation Award and was subsequently shortlisted for the 1996 Commonwealth Writers Prize for the Best First Novel Regional Awards. A collection of poetry, Hybrid from the East, was published in the UK in 1997. A second novel awaits publication. After initially leaving Singapore for London in the mid-1990s he now lives in Sydney as a healthcare worker and qualified Chinese medicine practitioner. Sixteen years after its initial publication, Glass Cathedral the novel is finally receiving attention and reappraisal in the wake of its Glass Cathedral's republication by Epigram Books as a Singapore Classic, alongside works such as Goh Poh Seng's The Immolation, Robert Yeo's The Adventures of Holden Heng and Lloyd Fernando's Scorpion Orchid. The interview took place on 8 November 2011 at a restaurant on the site of Koh's alma mater St Joseph's Institution, Bras Basah Road, Singapore, just days after Koh returned to the city-state and gave a spirited reading from and talk about Glass Cathedral at the Singapore Writers Festival. In this interview Koh discusses his Catholic upbringing, and his employment as a policeman during Singapore's policy of entrapment of homosexual men during the 1990s. Koh goes on to discuss how he came to write Glass Cathedral, his leaving Singapore in response to the nation-state's repressive climate and unsympathetic response to queer writing. In the second half of the interview Koh discusses homophobia in Singapore, the Catholic Church, and elsewhere and its roots in misogyny. Koh also draws attention to other issues explored in Glass Cathedral: the marginalisation of minorities in a supposedly multicultural nation state and the impact of Singapore's secret history on the novel, the so-called 'Marxist Conspiracy' of 1987, on the novel.