Adam Aitken, One Hundred Letters Home
Winner of the 2021 Patrick White Literary Award
Beautifully written, tightly structured, One Hundred Letters Home is as profoundly moving as it is intelligent and playful. There is the experience here of time's shifting nature, the way memory, need and desire work across the layers of narrative that shape a life, told, untold, remembered, misremembered and forgotten. Memory's work rolls through Aitken's perfectly measured storytelling, vivid and mesmerising in its detail, in the detours and return, in a work that is as aware socially and politically, as it is compassionate and vulnerable. This is a rare work of memoir, expansive in its cultural scope, in the precision of detail and acceptance of the failures of memory, self and family, common to all of us in their variation. Between laughter and tears, the underlying emotional grit and relentlessness of One Hundred Letters Home shifts things, changes you, as Aitken calls to account the past's ongoing presence in how we are to ourselves and each other.
'Aitken’s memoir is less about obsessive, biographical exactitude, and more a movement towards excavation and piecing-together fragments into a distinct identity. The book’s rawness is a manifestation of his remembering and recollecting, like a story torn from an old newspaper, or a confession inside a much-folded letter.' Adam Aitken's One Hundred Letters Home reviewed by Ivy Alvarez in Southerly.
"Adam Aitken’s evocative memoir probes the reasons his father married his mother, an ‘Asian woman’, by researching family history, experimenting with Plots A, B, and C, and intertextual references to Christopher Koch’s 1995 novel Highways to a War, Graham Greene’s The Quiet American, and Marcel Proust’s ‘Swann’s Way’ translated into Thai by his uncle. He tests the construction of his hybridity, the notion of his Asian ‘face’ and where it might be welcome, and where and with whom a trans-Asian citizen belongs." Gay Lynch, Transnational Literature
"There is no labyrinth more difficult to thread, no enigma more baffling, than that represented by our own parents; nor any quest for understanding more seductive, indeed necessary, to attempt. In One Hundred Letters Home Adam Aitken has accomplished the impossible with grace, acumen, humour, pathos and a beautiful sense of when to stand back and let the story tell—or not tell—itself. He has also given us a unique insight into the Asian-Australian milieu of the second half of the twentieth century. And something else as well: a passionate excursion amongst the perils and illuminations of soul-making." Martin Edmond
'One Hundred Letters Home is a beautiful story that charts what is lost, and what is carried through our chaotic, multi-faceted lives. Always, home is a destination that forms a reference point, while remaining a permanent space of longing, forgiveness and recognition.' Compulsive Reader.
2016. 304pp. ISBN 978-1-922181-04-6.
Release date: April 2016.
Adam Aitken is a London-born teacher and writer who migrated to Sydney after spending his early childhood in Thailand and Malaysia. He has published five full length collections of poetry. In One House, nominated in the Australian as one of the best poetry collections for 1996; Romeo and Juliet in Subtitles shortlisted for the John Bray South Australian Literary Festival Award, and runner-up for The Age Book of the Year poetry prize; Eighth Habitation (Giramondo Publishing) shortlisted for the same award in 2010, and most recently Archipelago, shortlisted for the Kenneth Slessor Award for 2018. In 2021, Adam Aitken received the Patrick White Literary Award.
His writing shows a deep interest in contemporary cultural issues, especially issues of Asian-Australian identity and cultural hybridity. His work has been translated into French, Swedish, German, Polish, Malay and Mandarin, and is published internationally. In 2010-11 he spend time as Distinguished Visiting Professor at the University of Hawaii, and Poet in Residence at the Keesing Studio in Paris. He co-edited the contemporary Asian Australian Poets anthology (Puncher & Wattmann) in 2013. His creative non-fiction work includes One Hundred Letters Home (Vagabond Press 2016).