Beyond the Sea which has been described as ‘the one great Tamil novel of Penang,’ follows the story of a young moneylender, who hopes to marry his boss’s daughter, came to free Malaya from the Japanese on behalf of the British, and ended up helping free India from the British. World War II and his joining the Japanese sponsored Indian National Army disrupts his plans and on his return he discovers that much has changed. This novel has been translated from the original Tamil into English.
P. Singaram did not plan to write a historical novel. In Beyond the Sea, the author simply wrote a love story set against the background of post-war Malaya. He referred to important events that occurred at a critical juncture of Malayan history based on his own knowledge and personal experience. Because of the significance of the events described, Singaram’s work consider as a historical novel.
Singaram was the best repository of information on post-war Malaya and he relied on his own experience and personal knowledge when writing the book. Having lived here during the crucial years in Malayan history, the author could write about the streets, buildings, people, sequence of events and impact on society. He knew about the Indian National Army (INA) soldiers and their plight, he was familiar with the Japanese Kempeitai and the communists. Having worked in the kittangi, he knew the Chettiar community well enough to be able to depict their value systems. Beyond the Sea is a novel that is true to life and true to history. It may just be a fictitious story of romance, but the setting is real, the plot realistic and the characters genuine.
The author passed away disappointed that he could not return to live in Malaya. He continued to look upon Malaya as a land beyond the sea. But in the few years of his stay here, he was able to capture for us something that no amount of history books is able to unravel. The novel did not attract the readership that it deserved because it was published in India and the readers there cannot identify with events that occurred somewhere far away and long ago. It is important, in the current day, for the novel to be well annotated.