The Wheeler Centre
View all episodes in this series
Madeleine Thien: Displacement and Defiance
'I do not find the increased heft of China and its role in the world surprising. I do find the speed of the decline of America surprising.'
Madeleine Thien is an author continually drawn to themes of displacement, individual expression and revolution. Thien is Canadian and of Chinese-Malaysian descent and she’s dramatised the traumatic upheavals of 20th-century Asian history in some extraordinary works of fiction.
Her 2011 book, Dogs at the Perimeter, was set in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, while her most recent work, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, explores the profound, abiding impact of the Cultural Revolution in China. The latter novel, shortlisted for the 2016 Man Booker prize, tells the story of two musical families in China, from the 1940s through the Tiananmen Square protests to the present day. The work draws in surprising, exquisite ways on Western classical music and turns on themes of artistic and individual defiance and frailty in Mao’s China.
In a considered, contemplative conversation with author (and Chinese history buff) Toni Jordan, Thien talks about political upheaval and the artistic imagination.
Madeleine Thien is the author of the story collection Simple Recipes (2001) and the novels Certainty (2006) and Dogs at the Perimeter (2012), the latter of which was shortlisted for Berlin's 2014 International Literature Award and won the Frankfurt Book Fair's 2015 LiBeraturpreis.
Her most recent novel, Do Not Say We Have Nothing, was longlisted for the 2016 Booker Prize.
Toni Jordan is the author of five novels. The international bestseller Addition was a Richard and Judy Bookclub pick and was longlisted for the Miles Franklin Literary Award. Fall Girl was published internationally and has been optioned for film, and Nine Days was awarded Best Fiction at the Indie Awards, was shortlisted for the ABIA Best General Fiction award, and was named in Kirkus Review’s top 10 Historical Novels of 2013. Our Tiny, Useless Hearts was shortlisted for the Voss Literary Prize 2017 and longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award 2018. Toni’s latest book is the literary mystery The Fragments. She lives in Melbourne.