Tash Aw’s first novel The Harmony Silk Factory (2005) earned him a Booker nomination and a Whitbread win. He followed that with Map of the Invisible World (2009), and has just released his third book, Five Star Billionaire. Set in contemporary Shanghai, this latest work centers around five Malaysian expats chasing their dreams in the most exciting city on Earth.
Aw, born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents, moved to London in his teens and lived in Shanghai on and off during the writing of the book. Currently artist-in-residence at Singapore’s NTU, where he’s lecturing in creative writing, he spoke to Clara Lim and Ric Stockfis—at generous length—about how the story came together, what makes Shanghai so special, his career so far, and why Singaporeans ought to question things more.
This interview is in six parts:
- On Five Star Billionaire and personal reinvention
- On old and new China
- On censorship and (not) being a spokesperson
- On living in and writing about Shanghai
- On the art of writing
- On literary culture in Singapore