X

Create an account to continue reading.

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles
For unlimited access to The Spectator, subscribe below

Registered readers have access to our blogs and a limited number of magazine articles

Sign in to continue

Already have an account?

What's my subscriber number?

Subscribe now from £1 a week

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
 
View subscription offers

Already a subscriber?

or

Subscribe now for unlimited access

ALL FROM JUST £1 A WEEK

View subscription offers

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Login

Don't have an account? Sign up
X

Subscription expired

Your subscription has expired. Please go to My Account to renew it or view subscription offers.

X

Forgot Password

Please check your email

If the email address you entered is associated with a web account on our system, you will receive an email from us with instructions for resetting your password.

If you don't receive this email, please check your junk mail folder.

X

It's time to subscribe.

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access – from just £1 a week

You've read all your free Spectator magazine articles for this month.

Subscribe now for unlimited access

Online

Unlimited access to The Spectator including the full archive from 1828

Print

Weekly delivery of the magazine

App

Phone & tablet edition of the magazine

Spectator Club

Subscriber-only offers, events and discounts
X

Sign up

What's my subscriber number? Already have an account?

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

Thank you for creating an account – Your subscriber number was not recognised though. To link your subscription visit the My Account page

Thank you for creating your account – To update your details click here to manage your account

X

Your subscriber number is the 8 digit number printed above your name on the address sheet sent with your magazine each week.

Entering your subscriber number will enable full access to all magazine articles on the site.

If you cannot find your subscriber number then please contact us on customerhelp@subscriptions.co.uk or call 0330 333 0050.

You can create an account in the meantime and link your subscription at a later time. Simply visit the My Account page, enter your subscriber number in the relevant field and click 'submit changes'.

Please note: Previously subscribers used a 'WebID' to log into the website. Your subscriber number is not the same as the WebID. Please ensure you use the subscriber number when you link your subscription.

Coffee House

Remembering Clarissa Tan, 1972-2014

31 March 2014

2:27 PM

31 March 2014

2:27 PM

Our much-loved colleague, Clarissa Tan, passed away in the early hours of this morning. We’re all stunned here at 22 Old Queen Street – she had been fighting cancer for some time, but until a few weeks ago she had very few symptoms. Now, she has gone.

I first met her seven years ago, just after she had won the Spectator’s Shiva Naipaul creative writing prize. She was living in Singapore but we kept in touch by email, and I was struck by her gorgeous use of language, her eye for a story, her ability to understand any subject – no matter how complex – and write about it with humour and insight. Even in emails, she seemed incapable of writing a sentence that didn’t put a smile on your face. She had a potent combination of a hard head and a light pen. Now and again, she’d email me from Singapore about some fact or anecdote that had caught her attention – things that she thought spoke to wider truths. She had an eye for the kind of story that makes for a good Spectator cover, and I came to rely on her quite heavily.

When I became editor, I asked her if she’d like to move to London and work with us here. She did – in stages. She enrolled for a creative writing course, which always baffled me since she could already write brilliantly. She waited until she graduated to join us full-time here at 22 Old Queen Street, working on other people’s copy and also her own ideas. On every subject imaginable. She wrote a cover story on the Asian arms race (here), our addiction to smartphones (here), a hard-hitting assessment of racism, here all alongside her regular television reviews (here). To read her pieces is to marvel at her range and style.

[Alt-Text]


When diagnosed with bowel cancer (she wrote about it here, again here and about the ‘death cafés’ here), she opted to remain in Britain. London had come to feel like home for her, and she was hugely grateful for our NHS system that gave her such wonderful care from the outset. She was baffled by Brits who knock their country – she really did seem to think she’d moved to the best place in the world. She saw beauty in things we take for granted. And when she wrote about this (such as the changing of the seasons, here) it helped remind readers about the everyday beauty around them.

Clarissa also loved the Spectator as much as any of us here – and she knew that this love was reciprocated. She told me recently that she saw her colleagues as ‘a family – a large, dysfunctional family’.

I was with her on Friday, and she was her normal, joyful, optimistic self. All of her most endearing traits – her clever, funny turns of phrase, her extraordinary capacity to see the good in any situation, as well as her wry humour – were there in full. It was as if nothing was wrong with her. As I went down the stairs on the way out, she said that she’d found out that as she came from a former colony, she was entitled to vote in the European elections. Why, she wanted to know, aren’t Americans? She saw the makings of a funny Spectator article. ‘I can say that I’d like to stay alive until polling day,’ she said, looking down from the top of the stairs. ‘Voting is important. Russell Brand is wrong.’

On her desk, there is a list, headed ‘advantages of my current situation’. She had found 23 upsides. This is — was — Clarissa all over. She was defined by indefatigable optimism, humanity and love of life. As Jeremy Clarke wrote to me earlier,’her radiant, joyful smile so surprised me when she turned it on me, it made me laugh’. That was her effect on those lucky enough to have known her. The place she loved so much feels greyer, sadder and duller without her.

UPDATE: As of Tuesday morning, the six most-read stories on the Spectator website were by Clarissa. She would have been thrilled. Here they are:

Subscribe to The Spectator today for a quality of argument not found in any other publication. Get more Spectator for less – just £12 for 12 issues.


Show comments
Close