‘Anam is a beautiful book. I loved its hypnotic rhythms, its restlessness, the way memories, dreams and ideas, like waves, kept riding in over the top of one another, undoing and complicating everything. It is the work of a soulful and scrupulous mind.’
A grandson tries to learn the family story. But what kind of story is it? Is it a prison memoir, about the grandfather imprisoned without charge or trial by a revolutionary government? Is it an oral history of the grandmother left behind to look after the children? Or is it a love story? A detective tale?
Moving from 1930s Hanoi through a series of never-ending wars and displacements to Saigon, Paris, Melbourne and Cambridge, Anam is a novel about memory and inheritance, colonialism and belonging, home and exile.
Anam blends fiction and essay, theory and everyday life to imagine that which has been repressed, left out, and forgotten. The grandson mines his family and personal stories to turn over ideas that resonate with all of us around place and home, legacy and expectation, ambition and sacrifice. As he sifts through letters, photographs, government documents and memories, he has his own family to think about- a partner and an infant daughter. Is there a way to remember the past that creates a future for them? Or does coming home always involve a certain amount of forgetting?
Andre Dao is a Melbourne-based writer, editor and artist. His debut novel, Anam, won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript. His writing has appeared in Meanjin, Sydney Review of Books, Griffith Review, The Monthly, The Lifted Brow, Cordite, The Saturday Paper, New Philosopher, Arena Magazine, Asia Literary Review and elsewhere.
His residencies and fellowships include an AsiaLink Arts Residency in Hanoi, an Emerging Writers Festival-Ubud Writers Festival Island to Island residency across Indonesia, and a Wheeler Centre Hotdesk Fellowship. In 2015 he was selected as one of Melbourne Writers Festival’s 30 Best Writers under 30.
He is the co-founder of Behind the Wire, the award-winning oral history project documenting the stories of the adults and children who have been detained by the Australian government after seeking asylum in Australia. His work for Behind the Wire includes a Quill award winning article for The Saturday Paper and the Walkley Award-winning podcast, The Messenger. He co-edited Behind the Wire’s collection of literary oral histories They Cannot Take the Sky.
He was previously the editor-in-chief of Right Now, an online human rights magazine. In recognition of that work he was a finalist for the Australian Human Rights Commission’s 2011 Young People’s Human Rights Medal. He is also a member of the Manus Recording Project Collective, whose work has been exhibited in the Ian Potter Museum of Art, Melbourne and the City Gallery, Wellington.