Tash Aw [ United Kingdom, Malaysia ]
Tash Aw, the son of Malaysian parents, was born in the Taiwanese capital of Taipei in 1971. When he was two years old his family moved back to their native land. Aw grew up in Kuala Lumpur and was educated at a catholic school before moving to Britain with his family, where he studied law at Cambridge and Warwick. Upon graduation he settled in London where he took on various jobs before eventually working as a lawyer. At the same time he was writing short stories and embarked on his first novel. In 2002 he completed his degree at the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia with his début novel and in 2005 "The Harmony Silk Factory" appeared.
The book is set in British-governed Malaysia in 1940, shortly before the Japanese invasion. In the first part a son tells the story of his father Johnny Lim, a two-timing cloth dealer and communist underground fighter who by dubious means worked his way out of the gutter and became the wealthiest man in the valley. His "harmony silk factory" was also used as the site of political resistance as well as a meeting place for smugglers and racketeers. He married the beautiful Snow Soong, who died while giving birth to their son. In the second part of the novel Soong narrates, in journal entries, their trip to the "Seven Maiden Islands" and sheds an entirely different light on her husband, who - boyish and aloof - is tormented by horrible dreams. The third shift in perspective unfolds by means of a report by Johnny Lim's only friend, who portrays him in this last part in unexpected ways: this time as a cuckolded husband and loyal friend.
Aw's narration is full of atmospheric density, a fine sense of humor and a pr edilection for the extraordinary. "I've always loved things that are out of context: a contemporary painting in a maiden aunt's sitting room, a tin of shortbread biscuits in a Malaysian kitchen - little things that become more noticeable, less taken for granted, when moved out of their 'natural' environment. That's why I wrote 'The Harmony Silk Factory' as I did, wilfully (and somewhat haphazardly) throwing together stories, characters and little digressions that are completely different in origin."
Aw was nominated for the Booker Prize in 2005 and that same year was awarded both the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for the best first novel and the Whitbread First Novel Award. His work has since been translated into twenty languages.
He works for the BBC on a regular basis, commenting on literature, film and culture in Southeast Asia. The author is currently working on his second novel, set in Malaysia and Indonesia in the sixties. He lives in London.
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