We, The Survivors

Tash Aw

Ah Hock is an ordinary, uneducated man born in a Malaysian fishing village and now trying to make his way in a country that promises riches and security to everyone, but delivers them only to a chosen few. With Asian society changing around him, like many he remains trapped in a world of poorly paid jobs that just about allow him to keep his head above water but ultimately lead him to murder a migrant worker from Bangladesh.

In the tradition of Camus and Houellebecq, Ah Hock’s vivid and compelling description of the years building up to this appalling act of violence – told over several days to a local journalist whose life has taken a different course – is a portrait of an outsider like no other, an anti-nostalgic view of human life and the ravages of hope. It is the work of a writer at the peak of his powers.

Reviews of We, The Survivors

    • ‘Aw’s gripping and strangely moving book has brought us, if not to an understanding, then at least towards some appreciation of the social complexity and steady flow of injustices that have led to this absurd yet terrifying moment’ John Burnside, Guardian
    • ‘Deeply atmospheric, this is a touching and beautifully written novel that questions the whole nature of authority’ Mail on Sunday
    • ‘A political novel in the best sense … a gritty, humane, uncompromising picture of an honest man caught in a corrupt developing country’ Guardian
    • ‘Aw’s tone is never moralizing or trite; he skilfully interweaves the personal and political, leaving no doubt that the two are inseparable, that the forces that act on us privately are refractions of wider powers which need global, rather than individual, action to be changed’ TLS
    • ‘A sort of The Red and the Black of our times, radical and contemporary. We, The Survivors is one of the most beautiful and powerful books I’ve read in years’ Édouard Louis, author of Who Killed My Father
    • ‘This is the tale of poor people—refugees, day laborers—whose lives are ruled by cruel circumstance and extreme poverty, whose struggles end in defeat, who are not meant to survive. What would be abstract in a report is here given burning, lacerated flesh. In the twenty-first century it is our Everyman, alas’ Edmund White, author of The Unpunished Vice
    • ‘Prejudice and the refugee experience are examined in this taut novel set in Malaysia … Aw doesn’t rely on tub-thumping; his achievement is to make a global story personal. When he finally circles back to Ah Hock’s crime, the scene is managed briskly, in keeping with a tale that, however grim, is never solemn or overwrought. It even ends on a gentle note; still, the novel’s horrors can’t easily be pushed out of mind’ Observer