[Reading] ➾ The Harmony Silk Factory By Tash Aw – Turboville.co.uk

Memories are things to be buried They die, just as people do, and with their passing, all traces of the life they once touched are erased, for ever and completely.Despite my initial misgivings about the book and despite the fact that the book suffered from the pressures of having to read it for a book group, The Harmony Silk Factory turned out to be a fairly interesting read Mostly set in Malaysia just before the Japanese invasion, Aw created a story that is set on the verges of different th Memories are things to be buried They die, just as people do, and with their passing, all traces of the life they once touched are erased, for ever and completely.Despite my initial misgivings about the book and despite the fact that the book suffered from the pressures of having to read it for a book group, The Harmony Silk Factory turned out to be a fairly interesting read Mostly set in Malaysia just before the Japanese invasion, Aw created a story that is set on the verges of different things the demise of colonial rule in Malaya, the fledgling rise of communism, the impending Japanese occupation Nothing is set Neither the circumstances of the story, nor the characters The story is that of a man, Johnny Lim, yet, none of the story is told by Lim himself We have three narrators, his son, his wife, his supposedly best friend, all of whom give their memory of Johnny Lim, and not one of whom is a reliable narrator So, having marvelled at the book all the way through it, I am no longer sure that anything described in the book truly happened Or at least not in the way, it appears.For example, there is a drowning that is not a drowning, a father who is not a father, an act of treason, that may not have been one.What remains, however, is that Johnny Lim s story mostly seems to be a story of betrayal It s either people themselves who commit this betrayal or it is their memory.Not bad for a book that I did not think I would enjoy.Where the book falls down, tho, is in that the abundant descriptions drag on and that it jumps so much between characters and time periods that it is confusing to follow Quietly impressive and atmospheric debut novel set in British Malaya at the outset of WW2, which won the Whitbread now Costa first novel prize in 2005.The concept of a story narrated by three voices with different perspectives has been done before but Tash Aw handles it well, particularly the distinctive nature of the voices and their particular slant on the tale, and while there is some gradual revelation of information in the latter pieces, these aren t thriller style twists but rather alt Quietly impressive and atmospheric debut novel set in British Malaya at the outset of WW2, which won the Whitbread now Costa first novel prize in 2005.The concept of a story narrated by three voices with different perspectives has been done before but Tash Aw handles it well, particularly the distinctive nature of the voices and their particular slant on the tale, and while there is some gradual revelation of information in the latter pieces, these aren t thriller style twists but rather alternative interpretations of characters and actions which make the picturecloudy rather than clearer.And again a novel about a central character, here Johnny Lim, narrated by the first person impression of other characters has been done before, but the author again controls this very nicely I loved this comment in the author s afterword about what the book tells us about Johnny and the three narrators All three of them project their own insecurities and aspirations on Johnny without ever really making an effort to come close to him That s why we never know him he s just a constrict of various neuroses.3.5 stars People who enter our worlds from the outside are alwaysfascinating than the ones close to us, but in the end we always see sense From THE HARMONY SILK FACTORY by Tash Aw, 2005 ReadTheWorld21 MalaysiaThe setting British Malaya modern Malaysia months before Japanese occupation in WWII Later scenes in modern day Malaysia.The characters a Malaysian of Chinese descent, Johnny Lim his wife, Snow their son Jasper his friend, expatriate Brit, Peter secondary cast of in laws, businesPeople who enter our worlds from the outside are alwaysfascinating than the ones close to us, but in the end we always see sense From THE HARMONY SILK FACTORY by Tash Aw, 2005 ReadTheWorld21 MalaysiaThe setting British Malaya modern Malaysia months before Japanese occupation in WWII Later scenes in modern day Malaysia.The characters a Malaysian of Chinese descent, Johnny Lim his wife, Snow their son Jasper his friend, expatriate Brit, Peter secondary cast of in laws, business partners, and a Japanese professor.Aw s debut novel received high marks, award nominations, and all sorts of accolades back in the mid 2000s After reading, I can see why The composition is fantastic, as is his engaging writing style.Three people tell stories about a singular man and their relationship to him over time But through these stories, where is the thread of truth The many faces of a person through time Father, husband, friend, employer, confidant, informant.Parts 2 and 3 are where this story truly takes shape, and sheds some light on Part 1 I so enjoy when a story takes on multiple viewpoints and re lives certain scenes again through different eyes and context Keen observations and puzzle like precision in storytelling That happens several times here and Aw writes it well.My second piece by Tash Aw read his THE FACE Strangers on a Pier essay years ago It was great to get back to his work with this earlier novel The Harmony Silk Factory is a very good book It is a very light book as well, supple and nuanced, elegantly concealing and yielding its gems in the same movement It is not, however, a simple book, though it may appear as such to the simple reader who is unable to comprehend unreliable narration, or distinguish between a narratorial voice and the author function Much of Aw s concerns here revolve around the act of narrativizing itself, how history is a palimpsest, how perception and personal b The Harmony Silk Factory is a very good book It is a very light book as well, supple and nuanced, elegantly concealing and yielding its gems in the same movement It is not, however, a simple book, though it may appear as such to the simple reader who is unable to comprehend unreliable narration, or distinguish between a narratorial voice and the author function Much of Aw s concerns here revolve around the act of narrativizing itself, how history is a palimpsest, how perception and personal bias skew our reconstruction of the past To that extent, a huge portion of the book s emotional power flows out of the subtle misalignment and dislocation of perspective and memory The sadness of the reader is the sadness of solipsism, of seeing minds hopelessly adrift and disconnected from each other, only briefly touching every now and then upon the current This emotion is heightened by Aw s Brechtian tendency to withhold catharsis, deliberately leaving the threads of this text frayed For all of its ambiguity, however, I would hardly call this novel a condescending one, because it often gives the attentive reader the keys by which it may be decoded Tash s tightly written prose features repeated images of machinery, architecture and textiles, all of which may be seen as fractals and symbols for the novel s own design Despite all I wrote in the previous paragraph, for instance, the machinery of this novel is hardly a visible one, and the effects produced by its workings appear effortless and well lubricated Every now and then the author offers a visible indicator of his intentions, like when he takes events explored in great detail in prior sections and repositions them as buried but conspicuous Flaubertian detail in later passages, or when a famous Modernist opening is subversively quoted to illuminate deftly sketched parallels in character and plot These moments are rare flashes of complexity in the text, serving to remind us that this novel is one that actively engages in intertextual dialogue with its forebears viz Hemingway and Conrad Nonetheless, they are prominent precisely for their rarity Aw is otherwise economical almost to the point of frailty, weaving together different portions of the plot in the confidence that sinuous, delicate connections will suffice For all of its complicated architecture, the building which ultimately emerges is organic in appearance, graceful and fluent, not phallic and brutalist The text is a tower of silk, standing despite itself, a miracle by existence Be patient with it Offer up a long obedience to Aw Let the work envelop you, and you will receive its beauty Joseph Conrad, W Somerset Maugham, And Anthony Burgess Have Shaped Our Perceptions Of Malaysia In Tash Aw, We Now Have An Authentic Malaysian Voice That Remaps This Literary Landscape The Harmony Silk Factory Traces The Story Of Textile Merchant Johnny Lim, A Chinese Peasant Living In British Malaya In The First Half Of The Twentieth Century Johnny S Factory Is The Most Impressive Structure In The Region, And To The Inhabitants Of The Kinta Valley Johnny Is A Hero A Communist Who Fought The Japanese When They Invaded, Ready To Sacrifice His Life For The Welfare Of His People But To His Son, Jasper, Johnny Is A Crook And A Collaborator Who Betrayed The Very People He Pretended To Serve, And The Harmony Silk Factory Is Merely A Front For His Father S Illegal Businesses This Debut Novel From Tash Aw Gives Us An Exquisitely Written Look Into Another Culture At A Moment Of Crisis The Harmony Silk Factory Won The 2005 Whitbread First Novel Award And Also Made It To The 2005 Man Booker Longlist. I have mixed feelings about The Harmony Silk Factory As I steadily progressed through the book, it reminded me of The Historian in terms of narrative Harmony Silk Factory tells the tale of a mysterious Chinese Communist by the name of Johnny in a colonial Malaya through the eyes of three perspectives.I enjoyed T Aw s detail and storytelling, it was well written And given the narrative style he took on, he sheds light on the tale of Johnny in different vignettes, allowing us to look at him in I have mixed feelings about The Harmony Silk Factory As I steadily progressed through the book, it reminded me of The Historian in terms of narrative Harmony Silk Factory tells the tale of a mysterious Chinese Communist by the name of Johnny in a colonial Malaya through the eyes of three perspectives.I enjoyed T Aw s detail and storytelling, it was well written And given the narrative style he took on, he sheds light on the tale of Johnny in different vignettes, allowing us to look at him in through different eyes Despite this though, at the end of the novel, I felt like I didn t know as much about Johnny as much as I would have liked to.That, perhaps, was T Aw s intention We could only analyze and assess of a person and a situation with what we know and what s given to us but at the end of it all we don t know as much as we d like to It also sheds light on human memory and perspective That is perhaps the gem of T Aw s narrative.Now, I understood this novel to be a historical fiction but in many parts of the book, I felt it to be isolated from the setting The setting of a colonial Malaya was only painted in vignettes and extensive knowledge of the local flora The politics of the colonial British and invading Japanese was meant to backdrop the premise but this servesof a invisible canvas as opposed to the driving of the plot Plenty of the book takes place out of this setting This, of course, is a small gripe on my part but one that nagged me throughout.While I cannot strongly recommend this book to avid readers who want to gleanon colonial Malaya there are better books, I m certain , Tash Aw s The Harmony Silk Factory is a book you d read to kill time It s not spectacular but hey, it isn t unreadable The story harkens one to Joseph Conrad s Heart of Darkness As the narrative on Johnny Lim, the owner of The Harmony Silk Factory evolves from three angles Jasper his purported son , Snow his wife who died after giving birth to Jasper and Peter English expat adrift in Malaya and Johnny s close friend our understanding of his underlying character becomesmuddied I love it that Aw teases us to reflect on who the real Johnny Lim is A liar and a cheat according to Jasper who starts off The story harkens one to Joseph Conrad s Heart of Darkness As the narrative on Johnny Lim, the owner of The Harmony Silk Factory evolves from three angles Jasper his purported son , Snow his wife who died after giving birth to Jasper and Peter English expat adrift in Malaya and Johnny s close friend our understanding of his underlying character becomesmuddied I love it that Aw teases us to reflect on who the real Johnny Lim is A liar and a cheat according to Jasper who starts off the story But we can t take his opinion seriously, despite his claim at the outset his tale will be clear and complete, as far as it is possible We know Jasper s opinions are tainted because he resents Johnny Snow claims Johnny is cold to her She s torn between loving Johnny and being attracted to Mamoru Kunichika who rules over Kampar during the Japanese occupation of Malaya Hers too is a biased account as we rely so much on what s in her diary, especially during a long jaunt to the Seven Maiden Islands What s left unwritten is never known, and therefore we really have to divine the rest of the truths surrounding Snow s relationship with Johnny and to a certain extent, Kunichika The last tale is by Peter His account lends the most insights connecting the events in the earlier narratives Unfortunately, Peter tends to be theatrical with the words he uses, songs he sings, outfits he wears and of course, insinuations on Snow, Johnny and other people around him On piecing things together at the end of the story, we should be able to conclude some things don t jibe Peter for instance describes himself as someone who s still strong even though he s in an old folks home In contrast, Jasper describes him as an almost incoherent old guy consigned to a wheelchair at Johnny Lim s funeral Jasper doesn t take after Johnny He has the coloring of his mother, and perhaps Kunichika too as his mother alludes And to confuse matters even , Peter builds up this incredible tale he has knocked up Snow Not much is known whether the marriage between Johnny and Snow is really consummated However the tender account on how Johnny treated Jasper at a train station leaves little doubt on the link between the two.Still, at the crux of the story, nothing is absolutely certain of the real Johnny Lim He s deceased and as repeated often times by the narrators Death erases all traces of the life that once existed, completely and forever We ll just have to draw our own conclusion from the silken tangles of the differing accounts.This is a much stronger andintriguing story than Aw s sopho novel Map of the Invisible World Love it I bought this book a long time ago, but was put off by the start of Peter s account and have just finished re reading it the other day The book is divided into three segments narrated by three different narrators whose story circles around one man, Johnny Lim Narrated by his son, wife and good friend, the novel is about their stories as much as his At the end of the novel, Johnny remains as much a mystery as he was at the beginning Is he a cold and withdrawn father, traitor, communist and I bought this book a long time ago, but was put off by the start of Peter s account and have just finished re reading it the other day The book is divided into three segments narrated by three different narrators whose story circles around one man, Johnny Lim Narrated by his son, wife and good friend, the novel is about their stories as much as his At the end of the novel, Johnny remains as much a mystery as he was at the beginning Is he a cold and withdrawn father, traitor, communist and schemer Is he simply like an oyster hardened on the outside but child like and fearful on the inside The main feeling I get from this novel is that it s mysterious The story explains as many things as it doesn t It s mysterious in the way family secrets are mysterious you know the story from this aunt, and that uncle, but ultimately no one knows the REAL story, and likely never will This feeling is strong in every aspect of the novel but most of all from the main character, Johnny Add to that a vivid and gripping atmosphere Although I m probably biased, since I m Malaysian and I can practically smell the wet mud and jungles described in the book and you ve got a very good book in your hands.The only downside to the book, for me, is Peter s account of the story I found bits of his botany ranting rather tiresome not unlike listening to an old man Although his part ultimately delivers, it lacks the smooth narrations of the first two parts, fizzling instead of ending with a bang Nonetheless, The Harmony Silk Factory is a book that s well above mediocre Though Aw won the Whitbread First Novel Award for this book in 2005, I wasn t overly impressed Interesting for its references to Malay culture and society, I thought the novel very constructed The central character of the book, Johnny Lim, is discussed by his son, his wife and an old friend, all highlighting very different aspects of the man and all seeing him in very different lights Although the concept is intriguing and the conclusion valid, that the way you see the people around you depen Though Aw won the Whitbread First Novel Award for this book in 2005, I wasn t overly impressed Interesting for its references to Malay culture and society, I thought the novel very constructed The central character of the book, Johnny Lim, is discussed by his son, his wife and an old friend, all highlighting very different aspects of the man and all seeing him in very different lights Although the concept is intriguing and the conclusion valid, that the way you see the people around you depends on what information you have at your disposal, too often did parts of the individual stories feel unreal For example, the middle part of the book, excerpts from the diary of Johnny Lim s wife, leave too many questions which the wife herself would most likely feel unhappy left unanswered Similarly, too many details in the story told by Johnny Lim s son can only clearly be nothing but conjecture, though he claims the story to be true, using history s hindsight as well as supposed uncovered sources he s found over the years However, him qualifying aspects of scenes to which no one but dead men were part of, takes away from the credibility of his story and therefore from the quality of the book This is an interesting and ambitious novel that gives a good sense of the time and place, Malaysia just before World War II and the Japanese invasion, but it did not entirely come together for me. The Harmony Silk Factory


About the Author: Tash Aw

Born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents, Tash Aw grew up in Kuala Lumpur before moving to England in his teens He studied law at the University of Cambridge and University of Warwick, then moved to London to write After graduating he worked at a number of jobs, including as a lawyer for four years whilst writing his debut novel, which he completed during the creative writing course at the University of East Anglia Based on royalties as well as prizes, Aw is the most successful Malaysian writer of recent years Following the announcement of the Booker longlist, the Whitbread Award and his Commonwealth Writers Prize, he became a celebrity in Malaysia and Singapore, and is now one of the most respected literary figures in Southeast Asia.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *