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  • Published: 2 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761046940
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $32.99

Anam: Shortlisted for the 2024 Miles Franklin Award


'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 good book lingers and, for me, affirms any curious return to its pages. Anam, the story of a grandson’s desire to make sense of his family’s past and his grandfather’s long imprisonment, is just this. The prose is meditative, recursive and serpentine. It is a work that wrestles with its own form and, like the best literature, escapes easy definition.'

'André Dao effortlessly discards the established form of the novel in Anam and goes convincingly and mesmerisingly his own way with a level of brilliance that entranced me. The result is the most richly poetic and intelligent novel I’ve read in many years. Dao’s search for his own inner truth is beautiful and profound.'

' I loved André Dao’s brilliantly restless Anam.'

'I was stunned by the power and beauty of Anam.'

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?

  • Published: 2 May 2023
  • ISBN: 9781761046940
  • Imprint: Hamish Hamilton
  • Format: Trade Paperback
  • Pages: 352
  • RRP: $32.99

About the author

André Dao

André 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 His debut novel, Anam, won the 2021 Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for an Unpublished Manuscript.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.

Praise for Anam: Shortlisted for the 2024 Miles Franklin Award

Anam is an enthralling and challenging novel, with moments both painful and tender. It is a profoundly beautiful debut.

Justin Avery, Readings Online

What a beautiful, complex, arresting read. Anam hooked me by the first page. This is a demanding but incredibly rewarding book.

Darcy, Better Read Than Dead

Uncompromising and honest, Anam is a brilliant book of immense scope. Dao has kept the legacy of his grandparents alive through his literary creation. He raises moral questions of doubt, complicity and guilt, while showing compassion and generosity towards all choices.

Tess Do, The Conversation

Anam's first page is a lovely, sinuous series of sentences offered between parentheses. It's about marriage, war, time and separation. It's about the ways in which Anam melds memoir, essay and fiction. It's glorious, and so is everything that follows.

Declan Fry, ABC Radio National online

This impressive novel illuminates lives that rarely come to the attention of Australian readers. Braiding fiction, essay, family stories and history, the result is a profoundly moving remembrance of things past as well as an invitation to look to the future. There is kindness and insight on every page.

Michelle de Kretser

Anam is a major work by a writer certain to make a mark on Australian literature. Both an unflinching exploration of identity, belonging, memory and history, and a poignant love letter to family, this book is fiercely intelligent, profoundly human, and deeply moving.

Emily Bitto

Anam is a hypnotic narrative of brutality and spirituality. It jumps across time, spinning stories around places, cultures and personal histories. This recalling to life comes with an exuberance, fulfilled only by writing other people’s stories, and in a world as dark as ours, this book is a welcome candle in the window. André Dao is an ethical story-teller. This is a liberating, brave and optimistic engagement with those who have been broken under the wheel of terror and neglect.

Brian Castro

Walter Benjamin’s angel of history appears in Anam several times, one ghost among many. The angel, Benjamin wrote, would like to ‘awaken the dead, and make whole what has been smashed.’ Only neither is possible, Dao knows this – he spent ten years looking to escape the false consolations that narratives of the familial past, of be-longing and dis-placement, offer up to the diasporic writer. What does Dao do? He keeps shards from the smashed world, drops the glue, refuses reassembly, he lets the dead speak for themselves, which is to say, to unreservedly haunt the living. Anam knows how to be steadfastly rigorous without sacrificing tenderness, knows that lyricism can sharpen thought. Dao works with shimmer, echoes, voices stretching time and space like rain to make a novel of many worlds and no shortcuts, it’s mesmerising, and uncompromising in its moral seriousness. Riveting, wise, transporting, Anam turns its back on the memory industrial complex and keeps the past unassimilable, both dangerous and fragile.

Maria Tumarkin

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.

Miles Allinson

Anam is a remarkable debut novel exploring memory, family, colonialism and displacement. The narrator, a young Vietnamese-Australian man who has recently become a father, sifts through family letters, photographs and stories of war, sacrifice and migration in an attempt to understand—and retell—his grandparents’ history. A work of autofiction, the novel hinges on the narrator’s career as a former human rights lawyer, perhaps influenced by author André Dao’s work documenting stories of asylum seekers in Australia. This is one way Dao skilfully braids fiction, theory and history to connect the past with the present. At once an absorbing and tender family saga and a philosophical meditation on memory and the ethics of retelling intergenerational histories, Anam is written in short, fragmented chapters that effortlessly move through time and place—from 1930s Hanoi to Saigon, Paris, Melbourne and Cambridge. The history that the narrator is trying to retrace is one of war and tragedy that cannot be told in a linear fashion, nor without reflections, doubt and ghosts, and so Dao offers the reader one piece of the story at a time. In doing so, he explores memory and remembering not only as an inheritance, but also as a way of creating a future. Anam is an epic feat that showcases Dao’s talent for storytelling, and will appeal to fans of Ocean Vuong, Nam Le and Madeleine Thien.

Anthea Young, Books + Publishing

Andre Dao's Anam is the most original and exciting first work I've read in ages. Ostensibly a narrative of a grandson's journey to learn his family's story, this is a brilliant blend of fiction, history, biography and (primarily post-colonial) theory. Anam asks how can we look at the past and make sense of the present and future when so much is unresolved or unknown. What feels like a novel is very much more than that. It's a fascinating, complex and rewarding book.

David Gaunt, Gleebooks Gleaner

Dao has a mesmeric and unique style that is both brave and profound. A style that captures the voice of those that may not always have one. [A] magnificent debut.

Samuel Bernard, The Australian

Dao's prodigious talent is on display and shining so much brighter for being rendered so humbly.

Bob Moore, Good Reading

The book you should be reading Andre Dao's debut novel, Anam, is a beautiful story of family inheritance and the search for belonging; a tale of the ways we make sense of the displacements and losses of the past and how we understand the business of building a future for ourselves. Considered, lyrical and deeply human, this is literary fiction of profound and lasting depth.

Qantas Magazine

Anam is a rigorous and generous book, which will sit with you well after reading. “We cannot transcend ourselves,” the narrator says. “Yet it is the promise of such transcendence that brings us back to literature.” Anam is transcendent.

Leah Jing McIntosh, The Age

Anam offers something defiant and distinct, unsentimental yet tender. Its structure and narrative are not definitive: it is an open-ended and polyphonic series of intertwined ponderings and vignettes. Nothing else in Australian literature has challenged me in a way that feels so profoundly personal. Even when i disagreed with Dao, I felt grateful for this new window, in a room that perhaps had always existed but had been locked shut.

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, The Saturday Paper

A warm, tender book about family.

Joseph Cummins, The Guardian

In the days after finishing Anam I often found myself reflecting on its philosophical implications; on its insights, caught like lightning inside of a bottle. Anam's sly sense of humour, the quality of the writing, the sophistication with which ideas are grappled with and emotions depicted – all of this required not only 12 years of Dao's craft, but the decades preceding those years, extending all the way back to his grandparents and 1930s Hanoi. The book is a testament to the importance of time in letting a story reveal itself; in allowing a story the space and material to come alive; indeed, I want to say – in a figurative sense – to come true.

Declan Fry, The Monthly

This is a novel worthy of re‑reading, as the narrative unfolds on several levels: pushing the boundaries of fiction and blending in essay and theory. It is beautifully written and a delicious read.

SISTA ZAI ZANDA, the Big Issue

André Dao’s Anam is a bold evocation of memory. It explores what it means to attempt to recover the past, and moves to consider how hybrid literary forms can function to unearth stories that sit on the borderlines between fact and fiction. Anam is a love letter – to what is lost, and to what is found.

Ellie Fisher, Artshub

Dao combines philosophy, fiction and history to great effect. Moving back and forth in time and place (from Melbourne to Cambridge, Paris and Hanoi), he interweaves the family’s recollections with imagined scenes, fragments of official documents, recorded interviews and research, while acknowledging the impossibility of writing a definitive version of the past. That is the slippery nature of memory, Dao concludes, in this extraordinary work of autofiction.

Lucy Popescu, The Observer

André Dao effortlessly discards the established form of the novel in Anam and goes convincingly and mesmerisingly his own way with a level of brilliance that entranced me. The result is the most richly poetic and intelligent novel I’ve read in many years. Dao’s search for his own inner truth is beautiful and profound. A deeply satisfying, ground-breaking work of art.

Alex Miller, The Age

Sometimes a book quiets you from the first page: you’re struck by a calm, silver intelligence and intensity of thought. In this novel – which branches gracefully into memoir, essay and something beyond – Dao, or a young father very like him, riddles over the history of his family. At the centre is the story of his grandfather, a political prisoner in Vietnam’s Chí Hòa. From there, he can begin to comb through the claims of loss and memory; of duty and of love. This beautiful, difficult book is about waiting and what inheritances you might dare to claim. Dao has poured everything into it and the result is something exceptional.

Imogen Dewey, Guardian, Best Books of 2023

The progress of the novel is endlessly deferred by a series of sidetracks into colonial and family history, philosophical and political observations, his thoughts on Vietnamese language and culture, and his own childhood memories. A new father, he needs to know what to pass on to the next generation and what to discard. The very distractions become the substance of the story, while the narrator’s mental grapplings reveal a humane and likeable character.

Roula Khalaf, Financial Times

A sprawling and strange novel that is autofiction, theory, an act of bearing witness and much else otherwise, beginning with the story of the narrator’s grandfather—a political prisoner in Chí Hòa—and blooming outwards to take in every facet of his life and those intertwined. As a fellow child of Vietnamese refugees, there was a lot here that I could relate to, but I was also sometimes confronted by it in a way that I found useful and invigorating in deconstructing my own relationship with both familial and national histories and legacies. I can’t say that Anam was an easy read, but I found it an utterly worthwhile one, both in terms of its admirable prose and form, and the boldness with which Dao challenges and contradicts even himself.

Giselle Au-Nhien Nguyen, Meanjin, Best of 2023

Dao’s writing is the kind that most excites me. It mimics—or even recreates—the experience of thinking itself: the dye spots that turn into streaks of colour, the sensations that become memory, the words that itch themselves into ideas. In the process, he makes contact with the deepest parts of human life. (I am still floored, and will continue to be floored, by his framing of tenderness as metonymic: how small, tangible touches stand in for the unsayable; the existential, almost mystic power they can then hold.) It feels good to read something so hard, to reach after a writer who— with clarity and elegance—assumes you can keep up, and goes from there.

Imogen Dewey, Meanjin, Best of 2023

Subverting the form of the memoir Dao has created a rich, unique and intellectually rewarding novel. At the heart of Anam is the remembrance of things, but what will remain with the reader is its rare tenderness. The judges chose Anam for the Glenda Adams Award, from a very strong shortlist, because of its literary sophistication and Dao’s preparedness to take risks. Anam pushes the novel form in new and exciting directions. Dao trusts his reader to meet the challenges he sets, and in so doing we are richly rewarded.

Judges, NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Awards & recognition

Mark & Evette Moran Nib Literary Award

Shortlisted  •  2023  •  Mark and Evette Moran Nib Literary Award is the only national literary award of its type to be presented by a local council.

NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Winner  •  2024  •  UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and Multicultural NSW Award

Miles Franklin Literary Award

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  Miles Franklin Literary Award

NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  Multicultural NSW Award

NSW Premier's Literary Awards

Shortlisted  •  2024  •  UTS Glenda Adams Award for New Writing and Multicultural NSW Award

Source notes by André Dao

Anam converses with, borrows from, remembers and forgets many traditions. Some of those traditions, and some of the authors and texts comprising those traditions, are embedded in the text. Others are only alluded to. A comprehensive list of sources is neither possible nor desirable: one of the concerns of this novel is how we deal with our inheritances, literary or otherwise. A comprehensive list – or itemised bill – is no substitute for working through what is to be received, and what is to be passed on, nor can it decide how much of that is to be made explicit, and how much to be submerged. Still, for those curious about how this novel was composed, lengthier notes are available here.

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