Structural Injustice Is At The Core Of 'We, The Survivors'

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The novelist Tash Aw has spent his literary career exploring migration and class tension from British-colonized Malaya to contemporary Shanghai. His fourth novel, We, the Survivors, focuses intently on social class in contemporary Malaysia, where his working-class protagonist, Ah Hock, struggles to lead a calm, quiet life. Long ago, Ah Hock killed a man under murky circumstances, which emerge over the novel's course, and was incarcerated. Now released, he wants only to feel "innocent again, and hopeful." He insists that "the past means nothing to me," but agrees — reluctantly, it seems — to give an oral history to a sociology postdoc named Su-Min. who wants it for her dissertation. That oral history, often punctured by Ah Hock and Su-Min's interactions, forms the bulk of We, the Survivors, a conceit that is the novel's only flaw.