Billy Sing

Billy Sing

Billy Sing

William -Billy' Sing was born in 1886 to an English mother and Chinese father. He and his two sisters were brought up in Clermont and Proserpine, in rural Queensland. He was one of the first to enlist in 1914 and at Gallipoli became famous for his shooting prowess.

In his new novel, Billy Sing, Ouyang Yu embodies Sing's voice in a magically descriptive prose that captures both the Australian landscape and vernacular. In writing about Sing's triumphant yet conflicted life, and the horrors of war, Yu captures with imaginative power what it might mean to be both an outsider and a hero in one's own country. The telling is poetic and realist, the author's understanding of being a Chinese- Australian sensitively informs the narrative. The result is a short novel of great beauty that impacts way beyond its size. A novel that is searing yet fresh, delicate yet brutal, a masterful habitation of another life. Billy Sing is arguably one of Ouyang's finest works to date.

-Australian son of both 'Mother England" and 'Father Cathay", Billy Sing is a Gallipoli hero and a modern killer, beloved and abandoned, admirable and deluded, lost and found. In his most concentrated, accessible and humane novel yet, Ouyang Yu brings a figure from remote history fully alive with intensity and tragic depth, lets us hear his voice and feel his pain.Ouyang restores Billy Sing to an Australian history that has threatened to erase him, but leaves us fundamentally unsettled about just what that history has been and might be.'

Ouyang Yu was born in Huangzhou, China. Since arriving in Australia in 1991, Yu has commenced an extraordinarily prolific literary career as a poet, critic, translator, editor and novelist. His award winning fiction includes The Eastern Slope Chronicle (2002) and The English Class (2010). His many poetry books include Self Translation (2012) and Fainting with Freedom (2015). He currently divides his time between Melbourne, Australia and Shanghai, China, where he works as a professor at Shanghai University of International Business and Economics.

Billy Sing
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Ouyang Yu
ISBN: 9780995359444
RRP: $27.95

 

Interview with Ouyang Yu

Question: What inspired your interest in Billy Sing?

Ouyang Yu: I'm interested in Billy Sing as a war hero as well as a person of English-Chinese origin, an origin that curiously overlaps mine, linguistically if not physically, as my learning of the language went back to more than 4 decades ago when I was a secondary school student in a small town in China. Since then, the two languages have been running in my life like two rivers.


Question: Can you talk about the research that went into this book?

Ouyang Yu: I read about him, and books about the time, in both Chinese and English, but I chose not to read the biography or watch the doco about him. I chose to know and not to know certain things about him for the sake of imagination.


Question: Why was it important for you to capture how it feels to be an "outsider and a hero in one's own country"?

Ouyang Yu: I identify with him because I am an outsider to the society I'm a citizen of now. Always have been. And that gives me an impetus to the way I wrote about him. And the bit about his final failure is what inspired me, too. And I guess I've woven part of my own feelings into the structure of the novel about his life as well.


Question: What's next, for you?

Ouyang Yu: I'm writing a new novel, already 60k words and over. But because of the fact that I'm teaching in a university in China, I can hardly find time to finish the first draft. I am just keeping wishing that I could somehow bring this novel to an end. And there are many other things happening, too. For example, I've just got a new novel out in Chinese, published in Taiwan, one collection of poetry by D. H. Lawrence in my Chinese translation, due out soon, a collection of poetry, very experimental poetry, in Chinese, and a Chinese novel out soon, too.

Interview by Brooke Hunter

 

Billy Sing
Transit Lounge Publishing
Author: Ouyang Yu
ISBN: 9780995359444
RRP: $27.95




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