Suratman Markasan (b. 29 December 1930, Singapore– )1 is a prolific poet, novelist and respected literary pioneer in Singapore. His literary career spans from the early 1950s to the present. The numerous awards he has received include: the Southeast Asian Writers (SEA Write) Award (1989);2 Singapore’s prestigious Cultural Medallion (2010);3 and the Anugerah Sasterawan Mastera (Southeast Asia Literary Council) Award (2014) conferred by Mastera Brunei.4
Suratman has been featured at local events, such as the Singapore Writers Festival.5 He has also participated in international poetry recital events in Osaka, London, Paris, Germany, San Francisco and Ohio.6 Additionally, he has written many working papers about Malay literature, language and culture which he then presented in Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. He participates actively in literary, language and cultural associations in Singapore, through important roles he has held in Angkatan Sasterawan '50 (Asas '50) and the Singapore Malay Teachers' Union. For instance, from 1982–84, he was President of the Singapore Malay Teachers' Union.7
Born in Singapore in 1930,8 Suratman started writing in the early 1950s. He wrote his first poem, “Hati yang Kosong” (“An Empty Heart”) in 1954. The piece described his pursuit at finding meaning in life.”9 After completing his studies at Sultan Idris Training College, Tanjung Malim, Perak in 1950, he joined the teaching service. Subsequently in 1968, he enrolled in Nanyang University in Singapore, graduating in 1971 with a Bachelor of Arts in Malay and Indonesian Studies.10 In 1980, Suratman was appointed Assistant Director for Malay and Tamil studies at the Ministry of Education. From 1981–85, he was a full-time lecturer at the Institute of Education in Singapore. He retired in late 1985, then continued as a part-time lecturer at the institute until end-1995.11
Suratman was the first Singapore writer to be a guest writer for Dewan Bahasa dan Pustaka (The Institute of Language and Literature) in Malaysia in 1991. Aside from writing, he edited publications such as: Majalah Sasterawan (1971–1973); Majalah Sekata (1984–1988); Warita Suara, a Mendaki publication (1985–1987); Warita, a MUIS publication (1989–1992); Ikhwan Darussalam (1993–1996); as well as Khalifah Muda (1998).12
Much of Suratman’s literary work addresses Singapore-related themes, as well as concerns expressed by the Malay community in Singapore. He offers critiques of what he considers to be undesirable actions or ideas. His writing captures his observations of social, cultural and political changes which have ramifications on the Malay community. Another theme Suratman explores is the clamour for religious reforms or the return to religion in the midst of extensive changes in modern life. He believes that religion and ethics can save human beings from the abyss of dehumanised life and the aberration of faith.13 He has also written a fair number of poems about love, some of which were written for his late wife Saerah Taris.14
Suratman considers writing to be a religious duty. He hopes to portray the truth and realities of life to help communities gain awareness of challenges they have to handle. He also attempts to encourage readers to reflect on existential issues and social problems such as: parental neglect; spiritual emptiness; cultural alienation; language deprivation; the plight of the poor; and mosque mismanagement. His narratives and verses are complemented by many of his essays on Malay culture, religion and language.
Described as a modernist writer with a reformistic bent,15 Suratman’s ideas and style have evolved over the years. He is not one who experiments with new writing techniques merely for the sake of keeping up with the times. Although absurdism, magical realism or post-modernism are rarely evident in his work, the concerns he explores resonate strongly with the Malay community in a modern multi-cultural society.
1962: Tak’ada jalan keluar
1979: Matahari kota
1989: Subuh hilang senja
1991: Perempuan kerudung hitam
1993: Potret isteri yang hilang
1994: Tiga lelaki
1996: Di bumi mana
1998: Penghulu yang hilang segala-galanya
2011: Dunia bukan kita punya
2004: Puisi luka dan puisi duka: (Puisi-puisi pilihan 1979–2002)
2010: Puisi-puisi perjalanan
2013: Kembali ke akar Melayu kembali ke akar Islam. Jilid 1, Kumpulan puisi 1954 – 2011
2014: Suratman Markasan puisi-puisi pilihan
2015: The wanderer
2007: Langau menyerang masjid: Dan cerita-cerita lain
2011: Api yang membara
2013: Kembali ke akar Melayu kembali ke akar Islam. Jilid 2, Kumpulan cerpen 1955 – 2012
2015: Dari perang datang sampai Kamoe san masuk Melayu: Kumpulan cerpen
2017: Minum kopi di Boigeet House: Kumpulan cerpen kembara
1982: Gerak dan dialog
2000: Kembali kepada Al-Quran
2005: Bangsa Melayu Singapura dalam transformasi budayanya
2013: Kembali ke akar Melayu kembali ke akar Islam. Jilid 3, Kumpulan kertas kerja 1986 – 2012
2013: Kembali ke akar Melayu kembali ke akar Islam, Jilid 4. Kumpulan ucapan dan temu ramah 1987 – 2012
2020: Kesusasteraan Melayu Singapura: Kumpulan puisi Melayu (1930-2015)
1959: Mekar dan Segar
1977: Persidangan Penulis Asean: [Kertaskerja-kertaskerja]
1978: Cerpen-cerpen ASEAN
1981: Puisi Temasik; Puisi Temasik 12-13 Disember 1981 [kertas kerja]
1981: Puisi-puisi Nusantara
1983: Gema Temasek
1984: Bahasa dan sastera nusantara: Sejarah dan masa depannya: Kertas kerja Pertemuan Sasterawan Nusantara III
1986: Jalan permulaan
1987: Tiga warna bertemu
1991: Cerpen-cerpen nusantara mutakhir
1992: Terminal terakhir
1995: Pertemuan kedua
1995: Journeys: Words, home and nation: Anthology of Singapore poetry (1984–1995)
1997: Stories from Southeast Asia
1998: Memories and desires: A poetic history of Singapore
2000: Rhythms: A Singaporean millennial anthology of poetry
2002: Balada Suluh Budiman
1958: Hadiah Penghargaan Peraduan Menulis Novel, DBP Kuala Lumpur16
1962: Hadiah Penghargaan Peraduan Menulis Cerpen, Kementerian Kebudayaan Singapura17
1982: Hadiah Cemerlang National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS): Kumpulan Cerpen18
1985: Hadiah Sastera (Penghargaan) Penelitian Hadiah Sastera Singapura: Puisi19
1989: Southeast Asian Writers (SEA Write) Award20
1990: Hadiah Cemerlang National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS): Buku21
1994: Hadiah Cemerlang National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS): Buku22
1997: Mont Blanc-NUS Centre for the Arts Award, Singapore23
1999: Anugerah Tun Seri Lanang24
1999: Anugerah Sastera Nusantara Johor Baharu25
2002: Anugerah Tokoh Pujangga, Universiti Pendidikan Sultan Idris26
2010: Cultural Medallion, Singapore27
2014: Anugerah Sastera Mastera28
2019: Nanyang Distinguished Alumni Award, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore29
1. “Cultural Medallion: Suratman Markasan,” National Arts Council, accessed 3 September 2020; “Si Hitam,” Berita Minggu, 6 January 1985, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
2. Tan Lian Choo, “Malay Writer One of Six Asian Award Winners,” Straits Times, 29 September 1989, 28. (From NewspaperSG)
3. “Singapore Cultural Icons,” Straits Times, 13 October 2010, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
4. Suhaimi Mohsen, “Selagi Badan Sihat, Suratman Markasan Tekad Terus Berkarya…,” Berita Minggu, 21 April 2019.
5. Akshita Nanda, “Who’s Who of Home-Grown Literature at Singapore Writers Festival,” Straits Times, 29 October 2015.
6. Mohamed Pitchay Gani Bin Mohamed Abdul Aziz, ed., Leksikon: Direktori Penulis Melayu Singapura Pasca 1965 (Singapore: Angkatan Sasterawan ’50 & National Library Board, 2005), 186. (Call no. RSING 899.280255957 LEK-[DIR])
7. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
8. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
9. Azhar Ibrahim, “Suratman Markasan: A Man of Letters and a Witness of Change,” in Juffri Supa'at, Suratman Markasan: Puisi-Puisi Pilihan (Singapore: National Library Board, 2014), 6. (Call no. RSING 899.281 SUR)
10. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
11. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
12. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
13. Azhar Ibrahim, “Suratman Markasan: Malay Literature and Social Memory” BiblioAsia (Apr–Jun 2014)
14. Ibrahim, “Man of Letters and a Witness of Change,” 7.
15. Ibrahim, “Malay Literature and Social Memory”; Suratman Markasan, Bangsa Melayu Singapura Dalam Transformasi Budayanya (Singapore: Anuar Othman & Associates Media Enterprise, 2005). (Call no. RSING 305.8992805957)
16. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
17. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
18. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
19. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
20. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
21. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
22. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
23. Ong Sor Fern, “No Money for Five But Award Is Symbol of Recognition,” Straits Times, 29 October 1997, 6. (From NewspaperSG)
24. Tuminah Sapawi, “Hit the Drums, He’s the Winner,” Straits Times, 27 July 1999, 5. (From NewspaperSG)
25. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
26. Mohamed Abdul Aziz, Leksikon, 186.
27. “Singapore Cultural Icons.”
28. Mohsen, “Selagi Badan Sihat.”
29. Felicia Choo, “Top NTU Alumni Awards for Poet, Zaqy Mohamad and Teckwah Boss,” Straits Times, 19 October 2019.
Azhar Ibrahim, “Suratman Markasan: Malay Literature and Social Memory” BiblioAsia (Apr–Jun 2014)
Suratman Markasan, oral history interview by Abdul Ghani bin Hamid, 30 July 1991, MP3 audio, 31:22, National Archives of Singapore (accession no. 001293)
The information in this article is valid as at September 2020 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.