Acclaimed writer Tash Aw talks to us about Shanghai, Singapore, and why we are more interesting than dragons and zombies.

Tash Aw’s first novel The Harmony Silk Factory (2005) earned him a Booker nomination and a Whitbread win. He followed that with Map of the Invisible World (2009), and has just released his third book, Five Star Billionaire. Set in contemporary Shanghai, this latest work centers around five Malaysian expats chasing their dreams in the most exciting city on Earth.

Aw, born in Taiwan to Malaysian parents, moved to London in his teens and lived in Shanghai on and off during the writing of the book. Currently artist-in-residence at Singapore’s NTU, where he’s lecturing in creative writing, he spoke to Clara Lim and Ric Stockfis—at generous length—about how the story came together, what makes Shanghai so special, his career so far, and why Singaporeans ought to question things more.

This interview is in six parts:

  1. On Five Star Billionaire and personal reinvention
  2. On old and new China
  3. On censorship and (not) being a spokesperson
  4. On living in and writing about Shanghai
  5. On the art of writing
  6. On literary culture in Singapore

Click to view the interview on a single page. 

See Aw's schedule of public appearances in Singapore in April.


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Not Irish? Not an excuse for skipping out on the merrymaking. We've got the scoop on the best festivities happening on and around March 17 (Sunday).

Get into the mood early with Bull & Bear's Paddy Week promos. Unwind with their bargain Guinness and Irish stew combo at just $17++.

For fancier, date-night-worthy grub, try the limited-time-only festive Irish menu at The Penny Black, featuring Guinness-braised beef oxtail and oysters aplenty to go with your booze.

Once the weekend hits, it'll be hard to beat the three-day St. Patrick's Day Street Festival along Boat Quay for sheer scale. This fiesta of Irish music, dance, culture, food and drink culminates in a massive parade on street party on the actual day. While you're there, snap up the group deals for Guinness, Heineken and Magners Irish cider at the participating BQ Bar.

Don't fancy all that walking? Try the celebrations at CHIJMES for size. Toast to performances ranging from traditional bagpipes to modern tunes by live bands, all in the same spot.

St. Patrick's Day is more than just gallons of Guinness, and the good people at Molly Roffey's know it. Supplement your liquid diet with some green beer and Irish Kamikazee shooters, plus try out Irish Carbombs here.

If you're still standing, ring in St. Patrick's Day itself with some late-night debauchery at Avalon. Unleash your inner leprechaun as the club transforms into a mini-Ireland just for the night.

For a nice surprise, join The Official St. Patrick's Day Pub Crawl. Get whisked around in an open-top party bus to 3 mystery Irish bars, plus a club at the end of the night.

On St. Patrick's Day itself, head on down to the party at Mulligan's for a super Sunday of live music, a live F1 screening, and games like beer pong. 

If you're in town, stop by Malones for your Sunday booze hit accompanied by live bands. Aside from the usual suspects Guinness and Kilkenny, you can also choose from Irish Cream cocktails and regular house pours. 

Or check into beloved Orchard Hotel establishment Muddy Murphy's and kick back with a rollicking crowd to tunes from Celtic band Gan Ainm.

Yeats and Wilde more your thing than Guinness and Kilkenny? Wind down with like-minded people, and share and discover Irish authors at the special 14th edition of Books & Beer.

Finally, if you're still not convinced that St. Patrick's Day is for you, hurry on down to Pangaea to celebrate St. Panties' Day instead, where you'll meet like-minded folks who prefer lingerie to leprechauns(!). It takes all kinds.


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On a budget? (Who isn’t?) Get tipsy—or totaled—for next to nothing at these newish ladies’ nights, all on a Wednesday.


After one of those sweltering, can’t-focus days at work, a brain freeze is exactly what you need. Cool down with $5 Bellinis, $10 frozen daiquiris, and $10 frozen margaritas.


This new upmarket joint is set to heat up the Clarke Quay scene. (Two words: shirtless butlers.) Be plied with four complimentary tequila cocktails upon entry before 1am—perfect for you creatures of the night.

Fern & Kiwi

Complimentary vodka with either cranberry or soda mixers for the month of February, after which they’ll mix things up with a steady rotation of house pours. Stay tuned.

JiBiru Japanese Craft Beer Bar

Chocolatey and fruity notes dominate the freshly updated lineup of craft beers, ales, and ciders at $10++. Best part: It’s totally egalitarian, so don’t be afraid to explore your girlier side, guys.

Salt tapas & bar

This spanking new night offers free sangria, mojitos, and Kwai Feh (lychee liqueur) martinis at this bustling dinner spot. If none of these drinks gets you licking your lips, we don’t know what will.

The Exchange

Free flow of cosmopolitan, apple, lychee, and orange martinis. For a little extra pampering, don’t miss the complimentary gel manicures at their quarterly Wednesday night collaborations with City of Nailz & Wax.


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