Known for his use of bold language and his ability to tackle controversial topics, Gopal Baratham was a revered neurosurgeon and author. He was one of the first Singaporean writers to be published by a British publisher, and has received international acclaim for his works set around Singaporean society.
After studying medicine at the University of Malaya, he went on to train as a neurosurgeon in England before returning to Singapore in 1972 to continue his medical career. He eventually became the head of the Neurosurgery Department at Tan Tock Seng Hospital, holding the post till 1987. He pursued private practice after that, before retiring from medicine in 1999.
Gopal’s passion for writing began while he was still in medical school. Towards the end of his school days, he started contributing weekly articles to local newspapers and in 1974, his first short story, Island, was published in Commentary magazine. In 1981, he published his first short story collection, Figments of Experience, which was awarded the Highly Commended prize by the National Book Development Council of Singapore in 1982. Following this, Gopal authored three more short story collections — Love Letter and Other Stories (1988), People Make You Cry and Other Stories (1988) and Memories that Glow in the Dark (1995).
In 1991, his debut novel, A Candle or the Sun, was published overseas, receiving critical acclaim internationally and becoming his best known work to date. Loosely based on the real life events of Operation Spectrum, the political thriller was shortlisted for the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize in 1992. Gopal authored two more novels after this, Sayang (1991) and Moonrise, Sunset (1996).
Outside of writing fiction, he also wrote a non-fiction work titled The Caning of Michael Fay in 1994, detailing the events leading up to the caning sentence received by U.S citizen Michael Fay for acts of vandalism in Singapore that same year. Adding to his literary accolades, Gopal was awarded the Southeast Asian Write Award in 1991 and in the same year, was elected president of the ASEAN Association of Neurosurgeons.
In 2002, Gopal passed away at the age of 66 from pneumonia. His contributions to Singapore literature were celebrated during the 2014 Singapore Writers Festival as part of the festival’s Literary Pioneer Showcase. His works have since been commemorated in the form of a collected short story collection published in 2014 by Marshall Cavendish (The Collected Short Story Collection of Gopal Baratham) and a 2018 stage adaptation of one of his short stories for Page on Stage, a literary festival organised by The Arts House.
Author Biography and Author Photo © Marshall Cavendish. All rights reserved.