Tag-Archive for ◊ trip ◊

Author:
• Sunday, March 27th, 2011

Francesca Marciano was born and grew up in Rome, Italy in 1955. Her grandfather was a well-known Italian writer and winner of literary awards. Since her childhood Francesca was dreaming of becoming a writer like her grandfather but she gave up her university studies and went to New York to have a six-month film course and ended up staying six years.

She worked as a producer/director for documentaries for the Italian television before she found out that her real vocation was film-making. She also acted in some films and became a writer.

Her first holiday trip to Zanzibar made her fall in love with Africa. Since then, she spends her time between Rome and Kenya, where she has a residence.

Francesca Marciano has written three novels to date :
The End Of Manners in 2009
Casa Rossa in 2003
Rules Of The Wild in 1998

The beautiful young Italian, Esme, is the main character and the passionate, self-observing narrator of Rules Of The Wild. The story is set in modern Kenya and relates the every day life of western expatriates who live a superficial, decadent, purposeless existence in a closed circle community. They get drunk, consume drugs and are devoid of morals. They live in Kenya and yet are completely cut off from the native culture of the place they call home but don’t seem to care. They don’t want to leave because they are captured by the picturesque beauty of the country and because of all the privileges and freedom they have. They don’t contribute to the Kenyan life, they don’t even make African friends, they only have cheap African labourers. The colonial attitude still prevails among the white society in Africa.

The expatriates are aware without being deterred, that they will never belong to Kenya nor be part of it despite falling in love with it. Just like Esme who surmounts her torn feelings towards her two lovers, Adam and Hunter, knowing well that she will never “belong” to either of them.

Esme is first attracted to Adam, the gentle, handsomely rugged, safari leader, a second generation Scot, who is captivated by the fascinating landscape and wild nature and would like to transmit this passion to Esme.

While living with Adam she is charmed by the conceited British war correspondent, Hunter, who after reporting the Somalian and Rwandan genocides becomes cynical about the harshness and injustice in these breathtaking, unspoilt East African countries and transmits the horror of what he has witnessed to Esme, through his copious accounts.

After much wavering between her two very dissimilar lovers, after much suffering and introspection, Esme discovers that her passion lies elsewhere. It lies in the miracle generated everyday by the swooping of birds over the still water, the movement of the clouds, the pink and purple sunrise and the stunningly dramatic orange sunset. Every day this magnificent, heavenly display looks as if perceived for the first time by the observer.

Esme discovers that she feels reborn and free by living so close to such enthralling virgin landscape which is a constant wonder, because she senses that she is part of it. She realises that she is in love with Africa more than anything or anybody. At last, after her wearying quest, she attains her flawless, “elsewhere” and extirpates herself from the past in order to live in harmony and self-abnegation with her surroundings.

Unfortunately, this striking paradisaical setting is heavily obscured by the sad crude reality of how the white Westerners still sustain the colonialist mentality in the African countries and by the rape, pillages and blood baths taking place in the neighbouring Rwanda and Somalia. A dark side of human nature juxtaposed to the beautiful images of an untamed luxuriant African panorama.

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Author:
• Friday, February 26th, 2010

Tash Aw was born in Taipei, Taiwan in 1971 from Malaysian parents. When he was two years old his parents moved back to their homeland, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, where he grew up. He was educated at a Catholic School and moved to England with his parents when he was in his teens.

He read law at the University of Cambridge and Warwick and with his degree in hand, he worked in various jobs, including as a lawyer for four years. In 2002 he obtained a degree at the School of Literature and Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia, while working on his first novel which he completed during this time.

The Harmony Silk Factory, Tash Aw’s first novel, was published in 2005. It was long listed for the 2005 Man Booker Prize, won the 2005 Whitbread Book Award First Novel Award and the 2005 Commonwealth Writers Prize for Best First Novel (Asia Pacific region), as well as the Guardian First Book Prize. It was also long listed for the 2007 International Impac Dublin Award.

The Harmony Silk Factory was translated to several languages. Tash Aw, comments on Literature, film and culture in South East Asia for the BBC on a regular basis. Tash Aw’s second novel, Map of the Invisible World, was published in May 2009. He currently lives in Islington, London.

The Harmony Silk Factory is set in the 1930s and 1940s with the background of the second world war and the Japanese who are about to invade British occupied Malaysia. The title of the book refers to Johnny Lim’s textile shop in the Kinta valley, where he ran his illegal shady businesses and his political affairs.

The novel is divided into three parts. Each part represents the opinion of the narrator and his version of Johnny’s mysterious life, by going backwards and forwards in time.

His son Jasper, who is now in his forties and seems to dislike his father strongly, starts the narration in a subjective way. He is followed by Johnny’s famously beautiful, unfaithful, well-bred, deceased wife, Snow Soong, who died at childbirth, through her diary. The third and last version of the novel is by Johnny Lim’s best friend, the eccentric British expatriate, Peter Wormwood, who is in his seventies and spent most of his life in Malaysia.

Peter reminisces about the past, while debating with his inmates about the flora and fauna in order to plan a design for an English style garden in the old people’s home, run by the Catholic Church, where he now lives.

Three different characters, three distinct accounts and viewpoints about the same events, re-shaped by each narrator in order to shed a variety of light on the main character, the Chinese born, Johnny Lim, the self made, highly ambitious rich merchant.

Jasper, his son portrays him as an objectionable, hateful, dishonest, murderer, traitor and Machiavellian personality. His wife, Snow Soong, sees him as a naive, taciturn person of a humble background. While his friend Peter describes him as the best and only friend he ever had.

Throughout the story the reader never finds out Johnny Lim’s version in order to surmise if he was a hero or a villain or read his side of the story. In fact, the author ends his novel with a few loose ends, maybe as an invitation for the reader to draw his own conclusion.

The reader better gets to know the psychologically tortured, repressed feelings of the human imperfection of these well developed main characters: Johnny Lim, Snow Soong, Peter Wormwood, his unpleasant compatriot, Frederick Honey, the manager of the British controlled tin mine and the suavely cunning, multi-lingual, highly cultured, Japanese professor Mamoru Kunichika, to whom Snow was strongly attracted during their action-adventure trip to the mysterious Seven Maiden islands, which is supposed to be Johnny and Snows belated honeymoon trip.

The Harmony Silk Factory is a novel without much action, with loose ends and yet it’s a pleasurable book to read. Because of the author’s skillful writing, his prose is pure and uncluttered and his psychological analysis of each character with his strength and weaknesses, gives a credible dimension to the story. Last but not least is his vivid description of the luxuriant nature of the beautiful Malaysia.