Gopal Baratham

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
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)
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 23 April 2002, aged 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.

In 2014, Baratham was the focus of the Singapore Writers Festival Literary Pioneer Showcase. "A Tribute to Gopal Baratham" comprised a dramatised reading of excerpts from Baratham's short stories by the Big Bad Wolf theatre company, a forum discussing Baratham’s literary legacy featuring poet Kirpal Singh, editor Mindy Pang and writer Crispin Rodrigues, and a short film adaptation of Baratham's short story "'Homecoming'" by director Wee Li Lin.[3][4][5]

In 2015, The Straits Times Akshita Nanda selected A Candle or the Sun as one of 10 classic Singapore novels. She called it "brilliant" and "funny".[6]


  • 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)
  • S.E.A. Write Award (1991)

Literary works[edit]

Short story collections[edit]



Secondary Texts[edit]

  • Of Memory and Desire: The stories of Gopal Baratham by Ban Kah Choon (2000, Times Books International) ISBN 9812320830


Unfinished Work[edit]

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

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
  3. ^ "SWF Literary Pioneer: A Tribute to Gopal Baratham". Singapore Writers Festival. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  4. ^ "Off the Page: Utter 2014 Screening (2 Films)". Singapore Writers Festival. Archived from the original on 13 November 2014. Retrieved 31 October 2014. 
  5. ^ Shetty, Deepika (10 November 2014). "Rediscovering Singapore's literary pioneer". Singapore Press Holdings. The Straits Times. Retrieved 11 November 2014. 
  6. ^ Nanda, Akshita. "10 Singapore stories to ponder". The Straits Times. Singapore Press Holdings. Retrieved 28 January 2015.