Alwyn Lau lives in Petaling Jaya, Malaysia, with his wife and two kids. He is the author of the novel Jampi.
Interview with Alwyn Lau:
- What motivated you to write “Jampi”?
AL: My professional life involves running seminars and during these sessions, I, like many other trainers, end up telling a lot of stories. My desire to put these down on paper, coupled with the euphoria of Malaysia’s 14th General Elections in May 2018—with all the political upheavals and dramatic stories it wrought—easily led to the idea of a novel which ‘combined’ these stories in a creative way.
All this, plus my desire to (finally!) write a novel, after having written almost everything else (eg, newspaper columns, academic papers, etc.) sort of compelled me to give it a real shot.
- The meaning of “Jampi” in Malay is ‘a curse’ or ‘a spell’, how is this topic reflected in your book? Why did you choose it as a title for the book?
AL: I suspect almost every Malaysian knows that the country is ‘spooked’ somehow, and I don’t mean just the religious people. Every Malaysian loves our country (for all sorts of reasons) but we know the great parts of it can’t be separate from the traumatic parts; almost as if the pain, the ‘curse’, constituted the nation somehow.
The stories, in this vein, hopefully, reflect the ‘jinxed beauty’ of Malaysia. Almost all the characters seem under a spell, all go through different dimensions of agony, relief, joy, anguish, etc.
‘Jampi’, therefore, made sense not only because of the paradoxical truth of the country I believe it reflects, but also because it’s a word every Malaysian knows.
- What is the key theme in the book?
AL: Unresolvable hurt, redeeming hope, painful banality and, well, tender love. A ‘rojak’ (a dish in Malaysia consisting of fruits, nuts, tau foos, sauces, and other inexplicable things in the universe) of life, I suppose.
- Do you have any message for the future readers of “Jampi”? What do you hope they will take away from your book?
AL: I never thought about any take-aways, to be honest! (smile)
I guess my main goal is that readers identify with and enjoy the stories. My friendly wager is that they will (or almost will) shed one or two tears by the second chapter.
My message? Please share your stories, too!