‘It feels as if I’ve only just begun my career as a writer, that I’m still learning my craft; but the reality is that I’ve been writing full-time for over thirteen years, which isn’t a long time in writerly years, but not a short time either. In this period, and indeed before, I’ve managed to amass a huge amount of paper – loose-leaf manuscripts of novels, clumsy short stories that will never see the light of day, dozens of notebooks, random clippings from newspapers: the usual scraps from the writer’s magpie existence. Paranoia keeps me from throwing them away. Some day I might just need that jumble of papers; somewhere in that pile of material is a start of a magnificent new novel.
The problem is, I can barely find my way around this increasingly disorganised mess. Sometimes I look at notes I’ve taken and can’t even remember why I found the subject interesting enough to dedicate four pages of a notebook to it. But in a strange way, every time I look at my files, I feel that they represent the way I work as a writer: I’m someone who needs a huge mass of seemingly unrelated information in order to gain focus. My papers contain the imprint of who I am – the places I’ve worked and lived in over the last decade and a half, and for that reason, I have hesitated to discard them.
But the truth is that I don’t consult ninety percent of what I keep in my fraying box files. UEA is the natural place for me to store my archives – I studied there, and continue to visit Norwich regularly; and I see both the City and the University becoming more international, more connected to South East Asia and beyond. From a practical and sentimental point of view, the UEA Archives are a natural home for my papers, which themselves link Asia to Britain.’
Tash Aw (1971-) a prize winning author and graduate of the MA in Creative Writing (Prose). Aw has produced three novels, all to critical acclaim: The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), Map of the Invisible World (2009) and Five Star Billionaire (2013). He is winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award, a regional Commonwealth Writers’ Prize and has twice been longlisted for the MAN Booker prize. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Prize and been published in A Public Space, the landmark Granta 100, and elsewhere.