Conversation between Claudia Durastanti and Tash Aw
One author takes us on a journey from jungle villages in Malaysia to megalopolises in China in search of an answer to the question: who is the stranger on the pier? The other author uses all means – autobiography, lyrical essayism and fiction – to claim her place as a stranger. Together, they tell a unique story of the immigrant experience.
‘Who taught you to speak?’ was the first question people asked Claudia Durastanti when they heard that both her parents were deaf. ‘What language do you dream in?’ they asked when they heard she had moved from Brooklyn to the Italian countryside when she was six.
In Strangers I Know, Durastanti looks back on a childhood in which two deaf parents never connected with reality, the outside world, each other or their hearing children. Strangers I Know is a novel about silence – the silence of deafness, the silence of the immigrant – and how it can be transformed by the love of language.
Strangers on a pier
In his first work of non-fiction, Malay author Tash Aw stays close to home. Although ‘home’ turns out not to be such an obvious concept for a descendant of the Asian diaspora. Tash Aw’s grandparents left mainland China in the 1920s in search of a new life in Malaysia. With The Face: Strangers on a Pier, Tash Aw wrote a letter to his late grandmother. A letter with questions – why so much shame about their origins, for instance – and insights, about his own position as the eternal other in ever new homelands.
Nicky Aerts will be in conversation with Claudia Durastanti and Tash Aw about the search for the impact of class, migration and art on their lives and work.
about the author
Claudia Durastanti (b. 1984) is a writer, literary translator and journalist for La Repubblica. Her work has won several awards and Strangers I Know was shortlisted for the Premio Strega. Durastanti is herself a translator from English and is bilingual in English and Italian. Languages and translation are like a thread that runs through her life and work.
Tash Aw (b. 1971) was born in Taiwan, grew up in Malaysia, studied in England and currently lives in Paris. His first novel, The Harmony Silk Factory, was nominated for the Booker Prize and won the prestigious Whitbread First Novel Award. Since then, he has published three more novels. His work has appeared in twenty-three languages. He has published stories and essays in The New Yorker and Granta. Aw counts James Baldwin, Marguerite Duras and his good friend Édouard Louis among his idols.
about the moderator
Nicky Aerts is a journalist and radio producer. You could hear her for the past 20 years on Radio1, at the news service and on Klara, where she is currently working on a series on nature and can be heard almost daily as a presenter of late-night programs. As a moderator, she can regularly be found on literary stages and other platforms.
Don't forget daylight saving time. On Sunday, March 26, the time will change from 2:00 to 3:00.
Org. Passa Porta, Istituto Italiano di Cultura di Bruxelles, De Bezige Bij