Over the course of two very different novels, Hanya Yanagihara has established herself as a formidable and versatile new literary voice.
Her debut, 2013’s The People in the Trees, had Yanagihara leading readers to a fictional Micronesian island nation, and to a turtle with life-giving flesh, weaving a magical premise into an examination of moral failure and ecological abuse.
Then, there was last year’s critically celebrated A Little Life – the Man Booker and National Book Award shortlisted novel that one New Yorker critic warned could ‘drive you mad, consume you, and take over your life’. That book, at turns harrowing and heartening, performed a complex balancing act: offering both a tribute to male adult friendship and a deep consideration of the toll of childhood trauma across many years.
Yanagihara’s linguistic versatility extends beyond the confines of the novel – she’s also a travel writer, and deputy editor of the New York Times’ style magazine, T.
Of writing A Little Life, Yanagihara has said that the novel became ‘more real than life itself. That process … is absorbing and dangerous.’ Hear from a writer who is certain to surprise and challenge – and whose fictional worlds hold readers in thrall, long after the final page.
In conversation with Jason Steger.
Hanya Yanagihara is the author of A Little Life and The People in the Trees. She is deputy editor at the New York Times' T Magazine, and lives in New York City.
Jason Steger is books editor at The Age and The Sydney Morning Herald.
He was a regular panelist on ABC TV's The Book Club.