Wednesday, May 11, 2005

Tash Aw in Time Magazine

Reviewer Donald Morrison has given a good review of Tash Aw's novel, The Harmony Silk Factory in the Time.

"Malaysia is a land rich in farmers, civil servants and electronics assembly workers, but poor in novelists. That's an odd deficit, given the country's high levels of literacy, prosperity and anxiety, as well as an abundance of history, politics, ethnic tension and other delicate topics that can be used as material. All of which makes Tash Aw's debut novel worthy of close inspection.
The first major work of fiction written in English by a Malaysian about his country in recent memory, Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory has won enthusiastic reviews since its publication in March in the U.S. and the U.K. Foreign rights have been sold in nearly a dozen countries, and the book will appear in Asia in June. Malaysians looking for insights into their country's modern condition may be disappointed. Other readers may find themselves enjoyably lost in a land of magic and mayhem."

After the first two paragraphs, Donald pretty much gives away the story. But he ends it well:

"The Harmony Silk Factory doesn't strain to be The Great Malaysian Novel. That's a deliberate decision by Aw, 33, who considers himself "100% Malaysian," though born in Taipei (to Malaysian-Chinese parents), raised in Kuala Lumpur, educated at Cambridge and now resident in London. "I didn't set out to incorporate any particularly Malaysian themes," Aw said from New York City, where he was on a promotional tour. "My intention was to demolish the Malaysian historical novel of the 1930s and '40s, as influenced by Somerset Maugham. You know, the idea that there are only two versions of Malaysia in literature—a place where white men sit around drinking pink gin, and a place full of colorful people doing quaint things. I wanted to write a book that didn't depend on settings."

Read the review here.

Very good for Tash. I saw a copy of the book in Kinokuniya recently here. Alas, my reading list is so long! This book will have to wait for me.


Susan Abraham said...

Hi Zaf,
What are some of the titles on your reading list right now and...
what are you reading presently?
yours 'busybodily...'
& good acquaintance
susan abraham

Susan Abraham said...

Hi again Zaf,
Thanks so much for posting Donald's review of Tash's book. And he had to of course, conclude his article with that 'dreaded' word - exotic. I can just picture a couple or rather more than a couple of veteran Malaysian cynics themselves dry as lard and hoping to write the Great Malaysian Novel, once more quivering and shaking in their sandals. Ooh...that dreaded word 'exotic',
Shiver, shiver! Shake, shake! ha-ha!

she said...

agree with you about the long list, zafar! and all my blogger friends post interesting reviews - nods to susan - so it just grows ever longer.

Zafar Anjum said...

Hi Asya,

I also feel guilty about this ever growing long list. Missing out so much on the contemporary scene. I wish I were a full time reader. With a demanding day job and a habit to watch about 5-10 movies for each book I read, I am a damn slow reader. I hate it!

Zafar Anjum said...

Hi Susan,

Thanks for dropping by. I can see the moving bird image along side your comment!

I was reading Henry Miller's Tropic of Capricorn, then jumped to read a text of criticism. Waiting for me on the desk is Don Quixote (which I keep sampling now and then and can't stop laughing at the misadventures of the knight errant) and then there is a collection of essays by Edward Said, Beginnings, which has a brilliant chapter on novels. Then there is Life A User's Manual, three story collections by Borges, Words by Sartre, and a whole host of books on Islam and terrorism (the research for my next novel). So there, you see!

The problem with me, Susan, is that I am a very choosy reader (all of us are, I guess) and a very slow reader. Also, I came to English literature late in life, in fact in college only and ever since have been trying to catch up. Similarly, I am trying to catch up on Hollywood too--so watching all the old and great movies ever made there. Lots to do...

she said...

zafar, you know, i've given up on films entirely. or my reading would cut down from the current 3 pages a day [shameful] to nothing at all! if only someone would pay me to review one book after another - wouldn't matter in the least if the reviews were never run. such dreaming, sigh!

Maya said...

Hi Zafar,

Am halfway thru Tash Aw's book...

I am like you too - a late starter. Have always been a science person and presently in love with Greene and String Theory!

It's a good thing I went to college in Chennai where I learnt fast from my rather 'erudite' classmates....and I had to read if I wanted to discuss Sartre, and Hess and Bly and even Maravia and yes, you haven't seen my bookshelf where books await ... I think we need more than 24 hours!

Zafar Anjum said...

Thanks Maya. In fact, it can be an interesting topic to write on: creative non-fiction or autobiographical stuff.