The Wheeler Centre
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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.