Cover image for Map of the invisible world : a novel
Map of the invisible world : a novel
Aw, Tash.
Personal Author:
First U.S. edition.
Publication Information:
New York : Spiegel & Grau, [2010]

Physical Description:
317 pages ; 25 cm
General Note:
First published: London : Fourth Estate, 2009.
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
FICTION Adult Fiction Central Library
FICTION Adult Fiction Open Shelf

On Order



From the author of the internationally acclaimed The Harmony Silk Factory comes an enthralling novel that evokes an exotic yet turbulent place and time--1960s Indonesia during President Sukarno's drive to purge the country of its colonial past. A page-turning story, Map of the Invisible World follows the journeys of two brothers and an American woman who are indelibly marked by the past--and swept up in the tides of history.

Author Notes

Tash Aw's debut novel, The Harmony Silk Factory , was the winner of the Whitbread First Novel Award and the Commonwealth Writers' Prize for Best First Novel and was longlisted for the Man Booker Prize. Malaysian by birth, he now lives in London.

Reviews 3

Booklist Review

Aw's voice seems Westernized since his debut novel, The Harmony Silk Factory (2005), as the Malaysian author takes readers to 1960s Indonesia, when opposition to President for Life Sukarno's autocracy was the norm. Adam, 16, barely recalls his older sibling. The two orphans were separated long ago, and he has lived peacefully on an island with his adoptive father, Karl. When soldiers drag the Dutchman away as part of governmental repatriation, the boy searches for Karl in mainland Jakarta. Aw's evocative descriptions cast the city as long past its glory and turn it into a poignant character: In the half darkness it was easy to imagine that here, in this warren of streets, the city had not changed in two hundred years. Trapped in a maze of dead ends and unnamed streets, he could not see tower blocks or concrete. With moving settings and memorable characters, this atmospheric and complicated tale of a rediscovered past and recovered family will engage readers interested in distant lands and timeless tales of bonds of blood and place.--Scott, Whitney Copyright 2010 Booklist

Publisher's Weekly Review

This exquisite and haunting second novel from Aw (The Harmony Silk Factory) follows a vibrant cast searching for a sense of home during the political upheaval of 1960s Indonesia. After 16-year-old Adam de Willigen's adoptive father, Karl, is arrested by Indonesian soldiers, stranding Adam in their remote island village, he sets off for Jakarta to find him. Meanwhile, American ex-pat professor Margaret Bates is reminded of her teenage love for Karl after an embassy contact informs her he's been arrested. Soon, Adam arrives on Margaret's doorstep, and though practical, good-natured Margaret has never felt any maternal longings, the two bond instantly. Their search for Karl continues amid the riots and protests filling the city streets, but is interrupted when Adam is kidnapped by a Communist student with a sinister agenda. With the help of a friend, Margaret uses every ounce of diplomacy she has to find Karl and Adam and construct the family she's discovered she's wanted all along. Well-paced and gorgeously written, this epic story of loss and identity mirrors the struggles of the young Indonesia in which it takes place. (Jan.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

With President Sukarno's government in trouble, security forces are rounding up Dutch citizens for deportation, and there is widespread civil unrest (1964 is the "year of living dangerously" in Indonesia). Against this backdrop, teenaged Adam witnesses the police hustling off his adoptive father, a Dutch artist. A search of their house turns up documents linking his father with Margaret, an American professor at the university in Jakarta. Adam strikes out for this teeming metropolis, where he witnesses the brutal riots after Sukarno's Independence Day speech and celebrations and becomes involved with a colleague of Margaret's who turns out to be a radical revolutionary. Meanwhile, Margaret searches for Adam's father with the help of an American embassy attache who may be undercover CIA. Along the way, Aw (The Harmony Silk Factory) relates Adam's earlier life before his adoption and wrenching separation from his older brother. The novel as a whole unfolds at a leisurely pace, as the author paints a detailed picture of a multifaceted culture subject to the forces of Western imperialism and colonialism, third-world squalor, and political intrigue. Verdict An intricate and emotional work, this book may be a little too subtle to attract a wide audience. Recommended for literary readers and larger collections.-Jim Coan, SUNY Coll. Lib. at Oneonta (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.



Chapter One When it finally happened, there was no violence, hardly any drama. It was over very quickly, and then Adam found himself alone once more. Hiding in the deep shade of the bushes, this is what he saw. The soldiers jumped from the truck onto the sandy soil. They dusted themselves off, straightening their hitched-up trouser legs and tucking their shirts into their waistbands. Their long sleeves were rolled up thickly above their elbows and made their arms look skinny and frail, and the belts they wore were so wide they seemed to stretch their waists to their chests. They laughed and joked and aimed pretend-kicks at one another. Their boots were too big and when they ran they looked like clowns. They were just kids, Adam thought, just like me, only with guns. They hesitated as they approached the steps going up to the veranda, talking among themselves. They were too far away; he couldn't hear what they were saying. Then two of them went up to the house and when they emerged they had Karl with them. He was not handcuffed; he followed them slowly, walking to the truck with his uneven gait before climbing up and disappearing under the tarpaulin canopy. From a distance he looked small, just like them, just like a child too, only with fair hair and pink skin. Stop. Adam wanted to call out, to scream for Karl to come back. Don't leave, he wanted to shout. But he remained silent and unmoving, shrouded by the dense, thorny foliage. He could do this now: He held his breath and counted slowly from one to ten. A long time ago, he had learned this way of controlling his fear. The truck reversed and then drew away sharply, kicking up a cloud of sand and dust; on its side there was a crude chalk drawing of a penis next to the words your mother ----. Overhead the skies were rich and low and black, pregnant with moisture. It had been like this for some days; it had not rained in a long time, but now there was a storm coming. Everyone wanted rain. In truth it did not surprise Adam that the soldiers had come. All month there had been signs hinting at some impending disaster, but only he seemed to see them. For weeks beforehand the seas had been rough, the ground trembling with just the slightest suggestion of an earthquake. One night Adam was awakened from his sleep by such a tremor, and when he went to the door and looked outside the coconut trees were swaying sinuously even though there was no wind; the ground felt uncertain beneath his feet and for a while he could not be sure that it wasn't he who was swaying rather than the trees. The ginger and white cat that spent its days bounding across the grass roof in search of mice and lizards began to creep slowly along, as if suddenly it had become old and unsteady, until one morning Adam found it dead on the sand, its neck twisted awkwardly at an angle, its face looking up toward the sky. Then there was the incident in town. An old man had cycled from his village in the hills, looking to buy some rice from the Chinese merchant. He'd just come back from the Hajj, he said; the pilgrimage is an honor but it isn't cheap. The crops had not been good all year; the dry season had been too long, and now there was no food left. He asked for credit, but the merchant refused point-blank. Last year there was a plague of rats, he said; this year there is a drought. Next year there will be an earthquake and the year after there will be floods. There is always something on this shit hole of an island. No one has any money, everyone in town will tell you the same thing. Prices are high, but it's no one's fault: If you don't have cash, there's nothing anyone can do for you. So the old man went to the pawnshop with his wife's ring, a small gemstone that might have been amber, set in a thin band of silver. The Chinese pawnbroker peered at it through an eyeglass for a few seconds before handing it back. A fake, he said, shrugging, a ch Excerpted from Map of the Invisible World by Tash Aw All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.