A decade ago, a bookstore that exclusively sold books from Singapore would have been unimaginable. In this country known for its pragmatism, people are taught from a young age to follow predictable paths to success and give up on unrealistic creative dreams. Singapore’s literary scene has long had a low profile, and few people knew the names of local authors.
In recent years, however, a renaissance in local literature has taken the city by storm. Young Singaporean authors such as Amanda Lee Koe, Sharlene Teo, Cyril Wong, and Inez Tan have risen to prominence, gaining recognition both at home and abroad. The Singapore Writers’ Festival has also seen an increase in participants every year.
Against this backdrop, the Huggs-Epigram Coffee Bookshop, a collaboration between Epigram Books, an independent publisher, and Huggs Coffee, a local artisanal café, opened its doors in March 2019. A sign at the door reads, “Hold Singapore in your hands.”
It’s the world’s only bookstore exclusively selling Singaporean books, a category it defines as any book published in Singapore, written by a Singaporean, or about Singapore.
Edmund Wee, the publisher at Epigram and co-owner of the shop, says he wants to put the spotlight on local literature and not let it be crowded out by the competition. “In a normal bookshop, you’re competing against the bestsellers from the West, and it’s really hard to give prominence to local books,” he explains. “So I decided to open a bookshop selling only books from and about Singapore.”
在这个勃勃生机的大环境之下，由独立出版商 Epigram Books 与当地手工咖啡馆 Huggs Coffee 联袂推出的 Huggs-Epigram 店于 2019 年 3 月开业。店门口摆放的牌子上面写道：“Hold Singapore in your hands.”（新加坡就在你手中）。
这里是世界上唯一一家专供新加坡书籍的书店，即售卖任何在新加坡出版、由新加坡人撰写，或关于新加坡的书籍。Edmund Wee 是 Epigram 出版商和这家书店的老板之一，他希望能聚焦本地文学，不让它们埋没在众多的外国文学书籍中。他说：“在平常的书店里，本地书籍往往要和众多来自欧美的畅销书竞争，很难从中突出重围，所以我决定开一家书店，只卖来自新加坡和关于新加坡的书。”
As you step inside, an eleven-meter-long wall of books catches your attention. Each book is set out in an open wooden box or cubby, clearly showing its cover and title. Besides being colorful and eye-catching, the arrangement also makes it easy to spot the titles you’re looking for.You’ll find novels, non-fiction, literary magazines, photography books, comics, children’s stories, picture books, cookbooks, and much more.
Even Wee is surprised by the growing variety of local reads. When he first opened Epigram six years ago, he found plenty of local poetry and short story collections to publish, but almost no novels.Nor were there any local children’s books, so most kids grew up with English tales from the UK or the US. This made Wee wonder: “Why should we read stories about blonde-haired princesses and castles? Why not about local issues?” Now, Huggs-Epigram’s diverse selection shows that Singaporeans have plenty of homegrown books to choose from.
走进书店，目光立刻被一面 11 米长的书墙吸引。每一本书都放在一个敞开的木箱或方格里，封皮和书名一目了然。这样的布局看上去不仅抢眼，也方便读者找到想要的书目。书的类型包罗万象，包括小说、非虚构类书籍、文学杂志、摄影书籍、漫画、儿童故事、图画书、烹饪书等等。
就连 Edmund 自己也惊讶于本地文学种类之多。六年前，刚创办 Epigram 时，他发现当地出版的都是诗歌和短篇小说集，几乎没有长篇小说，甚至连本地的儿童读物都极度匮乏，大多数新加坡孩子的成长都伴随着英美国家地区的经典故事长大。这让 Wee 很纳闷：“为什么我们孩子的阅读范围要被限定在金发公主和城堡，而不是一些更有本地特色的故事呢？”而现在，Huggs-Epigrams 书店藏书种类之丰富也表明，新加坡人现在拥有更多本土书籍可以选择。
One title that stands out is The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye, by Sonny Liew. It’s an award-winning graphic novel about a fictional cartoonist’s journey throughout Singapore’s modern history, and its clever political allegories have earned it a consistent spot on the bookstore’s bestsellers list. Another notable title is Inez Tan’s short story collection This is Where I Won’t Be Alone. Set in different cities around the world, these stories revolve around a familiar theme of displacement and the search for belonging.
汪洋书海中，由 Sonny Liew 创作的《The Art of Charlie Chan Hock Chye》值得令人关注，这本获奖漫画小说讲述了一位漫画家在近代新加坡的人生旅程，凭借巧妙的政治讽喻成为了书店的畅销书之一。还有一本是 Inez Tan 的短篇小说集《This is Where I Won’t Be Alone》，书中的故事以世界各地的城市为背景，围绕着流离失所和寻找归属感的主题展开。
In a further effort to support local creatives, Huggs-Epigram sets aside one table in the bookstore for an author or artist to use to work on their projects, engage with customers, or look for inspiration. Visitors can also get their books signed.
The attached Huggs coffee shop offers local drinks and bites to pair with the Singporean books, such as the Sumatra kopi, Masala tea, and ondeh-ondeh, brightly colored delicacy made of rice flour and coconut.
书店内的 Huggs 咖啡店提供当地的特色饮料和小吃，如 Sumatra kopi 咖啡、马萨拉茶和 ondeh-ondeh（用米粉和椰子做成的色泽鲜艳的甜点），读者可以一边品尝，一边读书。
Though small, the bookstore’s tasteful design and thoughtful collection make it a memorable space. Sitting on one of the round stools facing the wall of books, one can’t help feeling a flush of optimism. Hopefully, Huggs-Epigram will be just one more milestone in Singapore’s ongoing literary renaissance.
书店虽小，但雅致的装修和丰富的藏书却令人流连忘返。坐在圆凳上，看着正对面的书墙，心情也不由得变得明朗起来，但愿今后有更多像 Huggs-Epigrams 一样的书店，一起推动新加坡的文学复兴。