(c) Tara Sosrowardoyo

Tash Aw was born in Taipei, moved to Kuala Lumpur when he was two and later to the United Kingdom where he studied law in Cambridge and Warwick. He wrote three internationally acclaimed novels and also writes for the New York Times and the BBC. His debut novel "The Harmony Silk Factory", set in British-governed Malaysia in 1940, was published in 2005, "Map of the Invisible World" followed in 2009 and "Five Star Billionaire" was published in 2015. His novels have been translated into 23 languages. His latest novel, "We, the Survivors" (2019) is set in a Malaysian fishing village. 


When working on a new project, how do you sift through competing ideas in order to move forward?

I don’t force the process of selecting a writing project. Something emerges naturally and insists itself upon me.


What writing habit do you have that you feel is impossible to shift? (That could be a particular snack, writing hours, location, caffeine consumption etc.)

The only habit I stick to is to start early. I’m not a natural early riser, so the act of waking up early creates a sort of suspended state in which nothing exists except me and my writing.


The international literature festival berlin (ilb) has become an essential part of the literary calendar of Berlin. What do you connect with the city?

The city’s openness and commitment to culture makes it feel very comfortable and interesting. Very few cities have such a vibrant atmosphere created by a dedication to the arts. 


(c) Stacey Liu