(Taiwan, 1971) is a writer and essayist with Malaysian roots. His globally successful debut novel The Harmony Silk Factory was translated into more than twenty languages and won renowned literary prizes. His second book, Map of the Invisible World (2009) was also an instant international success. Both books deal with Asia's recent colonial past. The second novel is partly set in the turbulent 1960s in Indonesia; his characters make tangible the effects that political decisions can have on ordinary people. Subsequently, Aw published the novels Five Star Billionaire (2013) and We, the Survivors (2019), as well as the non-fiction book The Face: Strangers on a Pier (2016), in which he explores modern Asia through his own family story of migration and adaptation.(WU2024)
Archive available for: Tash Aw
Where do we belong? One of the most fundamental questions of humanity. A question writers have been asking themselves for years. The many different answers to this are an important part of our literature and heritage.
We found the perfect authors to reflect on this big question: Alejandra Ortiz, Aminatta Forna and Tash Aw. Where to Belong is a theme that returns in various ways in their publications, books and essays, and touches on important themes such as identity, gender and migration.
Alejandra Ortiz, Aminatta Forna and Tash Aw have written down their thoughts on this subject in advance and present their stories during the event. An interactive talk will follow, led by host Shantie Singh.
Writers tell us about their favourite book: the book that inspires or touches them, that set their artistic, moral or intellectual compass. In short, the book they would recommend to everyone. Interview: Hassnae Bouazza.
One of the things that distinguishes humans from machines is that humans have a body. A body that can experience pleasant sensations as well as pain. The body is our initial calling card to the outside world, an outer shell that is seen by others, judged and pigeonholed. Writers Aminatta Forna, Anne Boyer and Celeste Ng discuss this matter and read from their work. Writer and journalist Sarah Sluimer moderates.
Aminatta Forna (UK) is the daughter of a Sierra Leonian father and a Scottish mother. The question of how the horrors of war are remembered years after the fact is central to her work. Forna spent her youth partly in Sierra Leone, where her politician father was accused of treason and hanged. She writes about these events in her 2003 autobiography The Devil that Danced on the Water.
Before this debut, she worked as a reporter and documentarian at the BBC, where her probing reportages about Africa stood out in particular. In the 2006 autobiography Ancestor Stones she gives the word to her Sierra Leonian aunts, and in the 2013 novel The Memory of Love, a London psychiatrist in Freetown recognizes that everyone suffers from post-traumatic stress but no one talks about their experiences. In 2013's The Hired Man, Forna brilliantly depicts the fermenting tension in post-war Croatia.
Celeste Ng (USA) visits The Netherlands for the first time for the 2024 Writers Unlimited festival. Her three novels are true page-turners; currently she is the internationally most-read author with Asian roots. Her debut novel Everything I Never Told You (2014) is a sensitive portait of a family with several cultures. Little Fires Everywhere (2017), an even bigger bestseller, was turned into a film with Reese Witherspoon and Kerry Washington (available on Prime).
Her third novel Our Missing Hearts (2022) takes on the love between mother and child, discrimination against people with Asian roots, and humanity in dark times. Ng grew up in Pittsburgh and Shaker Heights (Ohio) and studied at Harvard. Her stories and essays have appeared in publications such as The New York Times and The Guardian.
Poet and essayist Anne Boyer (USA) won a Pulitzer Prize for The Undying (2019), a mediation about cancer, caregiving and what it means to be ill during the "information dream", our data-drenched era. "Boyer writes in an unadorned and incisive way about (her) cancer and the cancer industry." (Trouw)
Festival tip: Celeste Ng and Aminatta Forna will also appear during Opening Night (Thursday, 18 January) and Saturday Night Unlimited (Saturday, 20 January). Anne Boyer can also be seen and heard during the poetry and spoken-word event People Say Things x Writers Unlimited Festival at Paard on Thursday, 18 January, as well as on Saturday, 20 January in the poetry event Garbage In, Garbage Out during Saturday Night Unlimited.
Whether literature offers solace or confusion, whether it shows the way or disorders, every writer must have been moved in the course of his or her life by a passage, a line, an image or a poem which gave direction to his or her life. Was it a boys' book? A text on a tile? A column? Or rather that highly valued, often quoted passage from world literature? Jonathan Safran Foer, Tash Aw, Ramsey Nasr, Joke van Leeuwen and Petina Gappah read those passages that changed their lives for good, and reveal what happened to them when they read those lines for the first time. The programme starts with a reading from his work by the Iranian author Shahriar Mandanipour.
The Malaysian writer Tash Aw and the Indonesian journalist Andreas Harsono talk about Indonesia as a country of purely outsiders. The characters in Aw's latest novel, Map of the Invisible World, all belong in Indonesia, while being outsiders at the same time. Aw's first novel, The Harmony Silk Factory also was on outsider, but then it dealt with the position of the Chinese in Southeast Asia. Non-fiction writer Andreas Harsono works as a journalist in Indonesia, and in addition writes for a Malaysian paper. He is busy writing a book with the meaningful title A Nation in Name: Debunking the Myth of Indonesian Nationalism. In the discussion we take the year 1964 in Aw's novel as a starting-point, the year in which Indonesia balanced on the verge of civil war. From there the writers, travelling through time, look at the country with the eyes of outsiders. Who was an outsider, and when? How did they view Indonesia? What does it look like now: who are the outsiders today, and who is 'within'? Host: VPRO radio journalist Paul van der Gaag. In English