Gopal Baratham

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Gopal Baratham
Born 9 September 1935
Died April 23, 2002(2002-04-23) (aged 66)
Education University of Malaya
Royal London Hospital Medical College
Known for Author
Relatives Baratham Ramaswamy Sreenivasan (Father)
Chelsea Baratham (Wife)
Medical career
Profession Doctor
Institutions Department of Neurosurgery, University of Edinburgh
Tan Tock Seng Hospital
Private practice
Specialism Neurosurgeon
Research Neurosurgery
Notable prizes 1991: Southeast Asia Write Award

Gopal Baratham (9 September 1935 - 23 April 2002) was a Singaporean author and neurosurgeon. He was known for his frank style and his ability to write about topics that were often considered controversial in the conservative city-state.


Born to a physician and a nurse, Baratham decided to follow his parents and entered the medical profession. However, his youth was marked by the experience of the Japanese occupation. In 1954 he registered at the Medical College of the University of Malaya, Singapore, and, after studying at the Royal London Hospital in 1965, he entered the Department of Neurosurgery at the University of Edinburgh in 1969. He finished his studies by 1972, when he was already 36 years old, to become a surgeon at the Thomson Road General Hospital in Singapore. He headed the Neurosurgery Department at the Tan Tock Seng Hospital between 1984 and 1987, and went into private practice after relinquishing his post as department head. He retired full-time from medical practice in 1999.

Baratham died of pneumonia on the 23 of April, 2002. He was 66. Baratham had been in hospital for about a month for pneumonia and heart problems. He had had open-heart surgery in 1989.

Writing career[edit]

Baratham began his passion for writing in the 1960s, and never stopped writing throughout his medical career. His first novel, Fuel in Vacant Lots, was however never finished. In 1974 he was able to get his first short story, "Island", published in Commentary, the publication of the National University of Singapore Society.

It was only in 1981 that his first book collection of short stories entitled Figments of Experience was published.

In 1991, Dr. Baratham published his most successful novel, A Candle or the Sun,[1] which he had started working on in 1983. The novel was published in London and not in Singapore due to its controversial nature. The novel was loosely based on Operation Spectrum, the case of the so-called Marxist conspiracy, a group of Catholic activists whom the Singapore government had declared to be Communists and subsequently arrested. The same year he also published an erotic love-story called Sayang set in Singapore, Malaysia, and Indonesia. He won the S.E.A. Write Award [2] and was elected the president of the ASEAN Association of Neurosurgeons.

In 1994, Dr. Baratham wrote an account of the events surrounding the sentencing to caning of the American teenager Michael Fay, called The Caning of Michael Fay.

Literary works[edit]

Short story collections[edit]

  • Figments of Experience (Times Books International, 1981)
  • People Make You Cry (1988)
  • Memories that Glow in the Dark (1995)
  • The City of Forgetting (Times Books International, 2001)
  • Love Letters and other stories 1988


  • A Candle or The Sun (Serpent's Tail, 1991)
  • Sayang (Times Books International, 1991)
  • Moonrise, Sunset (Serpent's Tail, 1996)

Unfinished Work[edit]

  • Fuel In Vacant Lots (1977)
  • Beads in a Sutra


Secondary Texts[edit]

  • Of memory and desire: The stories of Gopal Baratham by Kah Choon Ban (Times Books International, 2000)


  • National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) Highly Commended Book Award - Figments of Experience (1982)
  • National Book Development Council of Singapore (NBDCS) Commended Book Award - People Make You Cry and Other Stories (1990)
  • Southeast Asia Write Award (1991)

External links[edit]


  1. ^ Review by Koh, Buck Song, "Light, love, liberty" The Straits Times, 31 August 1991
  2. ^ Koh, Buck Song, "Neurosurgeon wins literary award" The Straits Times 13 July 1991