Each week until the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction winner’s announcement on June 7th, we’ll be giving you an insight into the workspaces of our brilliant 2017 shortlisted authors. This week, Madeleine Thien, shortlisted for the incredible Do Not Say We Have Nothing, takes us on a tour through the cafes, libraries and parks of Montreal, Berlin and Shanghai in which her book was written.
Where do you write?
In cafes, libraries, parks and even supermarkets. I listen to music, and the music creates a kind of space around me, like another architecture, which allows me to be both in the world and in the book. Most of Do Not Say We Have Nothing was written in Montreal, Berlin and Shanghai. Certain places, especially Germany and China, and earlier on, Cambodia, have given me a kind of freedom that is very different from home. They remind me that I know less, and push me to ask different questions.
Here’s a place, an accordion shop in Shanghai, not far from the Conservatory, nearby to where I wrote.
What do you have on your desk?
Almost nothing, sometimes a book or two. And music.
Which is the most inspiring object in your workspace?
Looking out onto the sidewalk and seeing people moving through their day and around other people; the same gentleman walking his elderly dog (here’s a photo of this dear dog) at the same time each afternoon; people buying newspapers or stopping at the bakery. The street has an ebb and flow and continuity.
Also, changes of light, especially early in the early morning. I like to arrive in a cafe when it’s still dark out, and see changes in time.
What can you see from your window?
It used to be Heinrich-Lassen Park in Berlin, which is connected to a small cemetery. And in Shanghai, Suzhou Creek and towards the skyline of Pudong. Here are two images, the park in Berlin, and also a road outside a small place in Guangzhou province, where I was finishing some research and thinking.