Spot on: Hanya Yanagihara in the promised land

Michaël Bellon

With To Paradise, American author Hanya Yanagihara has a successor to her bestseller A Little Life ready and she is coming straight to Flagey to talk about it.

Hanya Yanagihara was born in Los Angeles and now lives in New York where she, despite her status as an established writer, remains active as editor-in-chief of the lifestyle magazine of The New York Times. Yanagihara started out as a travel writer for magazines and in 2013 made her debut with the well-received novel The People in the Trees, in part inspired by the true story of Daniel Carleton Gajdusek, a revered American physicist and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine who abused children.

In 2015, Hanya Yanagihara made her international breakthrough with the Man Booker Prize-nominated novel A Little Life: a hard-hitting, tragic 700-page story starring Jude St. Francis and three New York friends, all with different backgrounds and life destinations. In 2018, Ivo van Hove and Internationaal Theater Amsterdam successfully adapted the novel about friendship, but above all about power, abuse, loneliness and self-destruction for the stage.

Seven years later, millions of people worldwide have read A Little Life and can start on the next seven hundred pages of its eagerly anticipated successor: To Paradise, a novel published in January.

To Paradise seems to be just as thick and easy to read, but even more ambitious. In three parts, Hanya Yanagihara builds bridges between the New York of 1893, 1993 and 2093. These three separate stories are, of course, linked together with certain details but also with thematic lines to form a retro-futuristic epic about, once again, a whole host of major themes such as power, wealth and poverty, family ties and nation-building, utopian thinking, totalitarianism, resistance and love.

A book that is automatically topical, if only because it also contains a persistent virus. Thanks to Passa Porta, Hanya Yanagihara will be exploring all this during a talk in Brussels. Annelies Beck guarantees that this conversation will be enjoyable.

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