A SPRAWLING, RICHLY WOVEN MALAYAN SAGA
THE HARMONY SILK FACTORY
Fourth Estate (2005)
ANOTHER first novel worth exploring is Malaysian Tash Aw's The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), a sprawling, richly woven World War II saga set in the Kinta Valley of Japanese-occupied and Communist-infested Malaya. A colourful, emotionally engaging and riveting story told in lucid, uncluttered prose through a patchwork of narrative strands. Donald Morrison in Time magazine writes: “Malaysia is a land rich in farmers, civil servants and electronics assembly workers, but poor in novelists. That's an odd deficit, given the country's high levels of literacy, prosperity and anxiety, as well as an abundance of history, politics, ethnic tension and other delicate topics that can be used as material. All of which makes Tash Aw's début novel worthy of close inspection. ... Malaysians looking for insights into their country's modern condition may be disappointed. Other readers may find themselves enjoyably lost in a land of magic and mayhem.” What a pleasure it is to read such a remarkably accomplished and promising début! A tangled tale that displays intermittent flashes of luminosity.
AW Tash [1972-] Malaysian novelist. Born Aw Ta-Shii in Taipei, Taiwan. NOVEL The Harmony Silk Factory (2005: longlisted for the 2005 Booker Prize for Fiction)