ON THE COUCH ... Madeleine THIEN
A Quest for Certainty
TAN MAY LEE talks to Madeleine Thien about books, writing and how travelling makes time slow down
MADELEINE THIEN is the Canadian-born daughter of Malaysian-Chinese immigrants, currently living in Vancouver, British Columbia. She published her first novel, Certainty, in 2007, and her début collection of stories, Simple Recipes, was named a notable book by the Kiriyama Pacific Rim Book Prize in 2001. She also received the 2001 Canadian Authors Association Air Canada Award and the 1998 Asian Canadian Writers’ Workshop Emerging Writer Award for fiction.
Tell us about yourself and your current projects.
I love books, going to the movies, and talking to people. I miss living by the ocean. I love Japanese kitchen stores. I’m working on a new novel set in Montreal and on the Laos-Cambodia border.
What’s the weather like in your mind?
Four seasons, every hour!
What influences you in life?
Everything. At least it feels like that sometimes. People and books.
How well-travelled are you, to have captured several cultures and settings in Certainty?
I’m restless, and it pushes me away from home a lot. Travelling makes me feel like time is slowing down and that life somehow lasts longer.
Where is your favourite place and why?
With friends, late at night, any city.
Who do you write for?
Myself. It sounds egotistical but ... it’s where I start, with the things that make me passionate, or that linger with me, or that I can’t understand, and then from there go out into the world.
What was the last book you read that made you laugh out loud?
Zhu Wen’s brilliant collection of stories, I Love Dollars and Other Stories of China.
How does a title on the bookshelf persuade you to buy it?
The image on the cover; the description of the work. Something about its conversation with the world has to intrigue me, or open a door, or click with something that is ongoing in my mind.
Tell us about an achievement you’re proud of.
Running the half-marathon in Vancouver several years ago. The course started off downhill, which was a good thing.
Do you look out for similarities or differences in things?
Relationships between things. I guess that means both.
How often are you in Malaysia?
I had never been to Malaysia until I was 26, and now I’m there every two years, sometimes more.
TAN MAY LEE graduated from the University of Leeds, United Kingdom, where she was awarded the Bonamy Dobree Scholarship for International Students to do her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Language. She also trained as a Master Practitioner in Neuro-Semantics Neuro-Linguistic Programming. She is the editor of Quill magazine.
Labels: Madeleine Thien