Friday, January 06, 2006

Tash Takes the Prize!

And there was his colour picture in the Evening Standard a couple of days ago, with the headline:

Writing is the only thing I'm good at says the gardener who has
won an award for his first novel

Gardener!?? The legal career is mentioned a little further down the page (after handyman and decorator!), but of course it's not as exciting: doesn't everyone want to feel famous writers just appear out of nowhere?

Anyway, whooped for joy on the tube and supressed the desire to hug perfect strangers.

After so many long-listings and nominations and near misses, Tash Aw finally won a major literary prize, the Whitbread First Novel Award. And he's still in the running for the ultimate prize, the Whitbread Book of the Year which will be announced 24th January.

Warmest congratulations, Tash.


Lydia Teh said...

Yeah, yeah, very happy for Tash. Was so excited when I read the news in The NST. This is a step forward for Malaysia, an inspiration for wannabe novelists here.

dreamer idiot said...

Yeay...Makes me very happy that a fellow Malaysian has won such a prestigious literary award... although I do feel a tad bit ambivalent whether his future works should be considered Malaysian literature or British Commonwealth lit, because somehow it does seem that literary success comes by being a literary exile or sorts, as with so many other 'post-colonial' writers.

What's your take on it, Sharon? Will there be a truly 'Malaysian' lit which encompasses all local writers who write fictions in their language or choice?

Sorry for my annoying questions, I am rather curious abt this question of 'national' lit at a time where 'national' boundaries are questioned through transnational and global flow.

Walker said...

Ah, Gardener, Malaysian, Commonwealth...labels, labels, labels. Wasn't JK Rowling a single mother living on five bob a week in a bedsit? It's undoubtedly the PR companies churning out this information.

Tash Aw is a Malaysian writer. Nobody would dispute that. Whether his book (first published in the UK and written by a Cambridge graduate who did his creative writing course at East Anglia) can be considered 'Malaysian Literature' is a far more complex question than it at first appears.

I'm not sure where the Commonwealth label comes from because the Whitbread is only open to authors resident in the UK for at least six months, and whose book was first published in the UK too.

anna said...

It does not matter how Tash is perceived: Malaysian at heart, Commonwealth shaped or British baked... His unconscious will always translate his Malaysianess. You cannot escape your roots (even through globalization). Happy New Year, Anna

Walker said...

I guess I just don't understand why local and national labels matter. I'm familiar with local writers being claimed more ferociously by the people of their city than the people of their country. It's almost like people feel their region (local or national) is empowered by the association, but I think the writers' work tends to get diluted by all the noise.

Fabulous blog by the way Sharon. I've been lurking on the sidelines for a few months. :)

Anonymous said...

Totally agree with you Walker!

Tash is a writer, who was born in, at some point resided in, may have a passport from, the country called Malaysia. Whether he wants to be called a Malaysian writer or not, is entirely up to him. And writers write about their country of birth/residence for many reasons: love, intrigue, pride, contempt, just because; it sometimes has nothing to do with not being able to run away from one's roots.

Lets celebrate an incredible feat. Congratulations Tash! Good on you for your courage to achieve your dreams, including quitting the job and writing till you needed to work again, and enrolling in the East Anglia writing MA. And of course writing the book. You deserve all your success.

Anisah said...

It's splendid. The irony is writers like Tash might not succeed the way he has in Malaysia. Writers writing in Malay in Malaysia are pulled down by two things: (1) publishers who can't publish in the national language without too many typos (typos get to a point where it kills the pleasure of reading), and (2) a Malaysian public who reads one page a year (findings of a survey by the Malaysian National Library).

Writers in English face a 'national' dilemma, i.e. are English works on Malaysia and Malaysians considered Malaysian literature, and the writers Malaysian writers? This is not an issue of citizenship; the issue is on identity of the writers. To illustrate my point, Rudyard Kipling, his Jungle Book is based on India, he was born in British India. There's no doubt about Kipling as a British writer, not an Indian writer or a writer from British India.

My hope is that more Malaysians, the lay public as well as public bodies 'receive' Malaysian writers who write in whatever language, as Malaysian writers.

Sharanya said...

Hi Sharon,

Missing your daily posts! When are you back, and back to frequent blogging?

bibliobibuli said...

lydia - glad the news made it to the NST

dreamer idiot - i really don't believe in narrow definitions - i'd consider a malaysian writer to be a writer who has roots here (of birth or residence)... and i also feel that a writer can have more than one national identity - for e.g romesh gunasekera considers himself both british and sri lankan and hates to be pinned down over identity ... very many "british" writers have roots elsewhere and have consequently enriched britlit greatly and i beleive that we must be simularly flexible ...

... what i hope to see though is writers who create a malaysia that we recognise as our own, addressing the issues in fiction that do so badly need to be addressed ...

on the subject of labels though ... must say that i'm not sure what a commonwealth writer is ... "post-colonial literature" is a label the literary types love to bandy, but as time goes on I think it becomes more and more meaningless ... (waiting for the storm to start!)

walker - hello! thanks for your kind words ... followed the link to your blog and very much enjoyed it ... agree with you totally about labels

anonymous - (and which anon are you??) - yes, agree

anisah - hmmm - if kipling were born today would he still be considered so narrowly a british writer? wouldn't he be more free to choose his identity? ... and i think this issue of choice is important ... you're spot on about the problems for local writers and the need for us to embrace all our writers no matter which language they write in ...