Ghost into Divinity

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University; Distinguished Visiting Professor, National University of Singapore, 1998-1999

Near the very beginning of The Bondmaid, Catherine Lim relates how a "servant boy, imbecile and mute," acquired a quasi-divine status after his death in a way that connects to much of the novel's action:

Children passing the cemetery on their way to the town quickly pressed their palms together and moved them rapidly up and down in prayerful contrition and supplication. The contrition was for any inadvertent offence, for spirits were known to reside in grassy mounds or tree trunks that children might heedlessly step or urinate on; the supplication was for fathers to make money, for death conferred upon even the humblest man or woman the power to give winning lottery numbers in dreams. A servant boy, imbecile and mute, a grandson of the flatulent, bedbug-generating old woman, was killed by a falling rubber tree and thereafter dispensed wealth through such lucky dream numbers. He asked in return for only a meal of suckling pig and roast fowl, and was given all he could could eat -- for days his grave was suffused with the delicious aroma of a dozen sizzling meats. His grandmother, pleased beyond words, was given some of the food to take home. Parents also taught children not to say anything should they smell mysterious flower scents in the air. Tight-lipped, grave-faced, the children walked on, avoiding the sight of the rows of granite and marble slabs rising out of the tall stiff grass, with their remains of food, tea and joss-stick offerings rotting into the earth. [12-13]

This brief passage relates to much of what follows:


Lim, Catherine. The Bondmaid. [1995] London: Oriel, 1997.

Postcolonial Web Singapore OV Singaporean Literature Catherine Lim