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Madeleine Thien interview

Madeleine Thien interview

Madeleine Thien, author of Do Not Say We Have Nothing, tells us being longlisted has given her so many different emotions and the space to keep working.

This is part of our series of Man Booker Prize 2016 longlisted author interviews.


What has it been like to be longlisted?

Joy. I don’t know exactly how to explain it, but I have a feeling of safety, which is unusual in the writing life. I feel I’m being given space to think, to feel so many different emotions – from giddiness to fear to wonder – and also, extraordinarily, space to keep working.


What are you working on next?

A novel that takes very different kinds of risks than my previous work, and about which I’m anxiously excited.


What are you reading at the moment?

Two manuscripts: Brother, by David Chariandy, about masculinity and family and race, among many, many other things. A novel long in the making and brilliantly, concisely powerful in the reading. It will be published next year. And also, an as yet untitled novel by Rawi Hage, a compassionate, glorious work about mourning and Lebanon and taking care of the dead, and about searching for an honest person in an overturned world.


What is your favourite Man Booker-winning novel?

Iris Murdoch’s The Sea, The Sea. I was too young when I read it, but the novel stayed with me and I kept coming back to it. It has a vast and shifting subconscious.


Do you think the extent and long history of Chinese repression is still under-appreciated in the West? 

I don’t think that the history itself is under-appreciated, but I think the idea that Chinese history is also our history is under-appreciated. Ideas, writing, philosophy, music, religion, goods, politics, and people have moved ceaselessly across the continent, and shaped national consciousnesses as surely as water shapes the land. I think, perhaps, we under-appreciate how much of our own story has been shaped by people and places we perceive as marginal to ourselves.


Madeleine Thien