Monday, May 18, 2009


One of Malaysia's significant gifts to the world in recent years must be Tash Aw. In the context of the English language literary world and, I mean WORLD, Tash Aw has well and truly put Malaysia on the map, so to speak.

He has produced another book which has, significantly enough, been positively reviewed by Neel Mukerjee of Time magazine. Go buy his book:

Malaysian writer Tash Aw won a 2005 Whitbread Book Award for his debut offering The Harmony Silk Factory, and his follow-up does not disappoint. An unusually braided novel, Map of the Invisible World condenses the prolonged, troubled birth of an independent Indonesia into a complex drama of private relationships.

There are three narratives: of Adam, a child rescued from an Indonesian orphanage by a Dutch painter, Karl; of Adam's brother, Johan, separated from Adam when a rich Malaysian couple adopted him from the same orphanage and took him to Kuala Lumpur; and of Margaret, a Jakarta-based American anthropologist. It is Margaret that the 16-year-old Adam seeks out when Karl is arrested in a drive to forcibly repatriate the Dutch.

Indonesia in 1964 is teetering on the edge of civil war. Sukarno's "guided democracy" is in its death throes, and militant communism is on the rise. Jakarta is no place for an innocent such as Adam, who unknowingly gets roped into petty terrorism. Meanwhile, Johan, drifting aimlessly through a cushioned life of wealth, cars and soft drugs, cannot lay to rest the memories of his lost brother.

While Aw's prose remains as luminous as in his debut novel — evoking a wonderfully textured world of streets and shantytowns — there is greater emotional heft in this new work. The tender relationship of the brothers before they are separated, and their sundering, is told in a timed-release fashion, reaching an unbearably moving climax. If there is a sag in the middle of the novel brought about by a too expository account of Indonesian politics, it is more than redeemed by the way Aw debunks every expectation one has of the postcolonial novel: questions of identity and belonging, of native and foreigner, of affiliations of birth and adoption. This is a book full of immense intelligence and empathy.


masterwordsmith said...

Hi de minimis,

Ah - you beat me to it...have yet to get this one and have read good reviews about it such as yours His "Harmony Silk Factory" was also long-listed for the Man Booker Prize in 2005 (I think)..

Thanks for sharing.


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Raison D'etre said...

Hi DM,

How I wish I could adopt King's (Stephen) advise of switching of the idiot box and replacing it with some book time instead.


I think I will save a whole week of leave just to read.

God bless.

de minimis said...


We HAVE to take time. We need to remind ourselves of the need to detach from the deafening din of politics, economics and business. Wm Henry Davies' poem, Leisure, is a gentle reminder...


What is this life if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance.

No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

Wm. Henry Davies (1871-1940)

walla said...

are we up to the challenge?

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walla said...

For De Minimis,

may the rest of the journey be enlightening and fruitful...

de minimis said...

bro walla

Thank you for a wonderful set of life values.