Goh Poh Seng’s If We Dream Too Long is not a historical novel, but it has acquired historical significance with the passing of time. It provides a lens – albeit a flawed one through socially dysfunctional Kwang Meng – into the socio-political circumstances of post-riots Singapore in the late 1960s. Dream surfaces the contestation between reality and imagination in that period, through Kwang Meng’s fate, his representation of other characters and the ambiguous plot conclusion.
Holly exhibits competing desires across the novella; her continued free-spiritedness points to a quest for self-liberation, just as her nostalgic moments imply an acute longing for security. Her limiting notions of the former unconsciously shape these into seemingly mutually exclusive pursuits. While clearly flawed, her developing circumstances and the narrator’s perspective suggest marked sympathy, if not affirmation, towards the pursuit of self-liberation.
Yoga has recounted in many interviews an episode in-camp, when the rare exposure to TV saw all the “brothers” rocking along to music. It was an image reminding him to stay true to his initial motivation: to touch the masses. An inevitable question arises: Can Yoga still sing his melancholic songs with as much conviction and resonance?