Episode 22- Hanya Yanagihara: The People in Trees - Part 1


Hawaiian-born Hanya Yanagihara has been feted across the world, and longlisted for 2015's Man Booker Prize, for her amazing A Little Life. A Writing Life podcast is on the way.

Last year Writing Life met Hanya for equally unsettling and unputdownable debut, The People in the Trees, the story of an anthropologist who travels to a tiny Micronesian island in the search for extended life and ends up accused of child abuse. 
In the first part of this three part interview, we met at a noisy Berners Street hotel. Hanya began by wondering whether she feels like a novelist. Then:
  • the importance of her work for Conde Nast in freeing her creatively
  • 'My only concern with the books is the world I create be as logical and complete as possible'
  • the conservative nature of modern publishing
  • laziness and taking 20 years to write a novel
  • the strain of writing as an old man
  • where did the idea for the novel come from?
  • the real-life story of the novel's inspiration, Daniel Carleton Gajdusek
  • researching Gajdusek, science and controversy
  • Hawaii, Barack Obama and Yanagihara's cultural background
  • 'I am the first generation of my family not to work in the fields'
  • colonisation in Hawaii and Yanagihara's fiction 
  • The Tempest as inspiration for The People in the Trees
  • travel, Empire, science and transformation
  • love, loneliness, science and Yanagihara's central character, Norton Perina
  • genius and the 'Great Man'
  • Yanagihara's scientist father
  • moral questions: does the end always justify the means in scientific research
  • the vexed question of extended life 
  • 'Nobody wants you to be old anymore'

Read my review in the Independent of The People in the Trees here.

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