News & events > Tan Twan Eng wins Man Asian Literary Prize
17 Mar 2013

Tan Twan Eng wins Man Asian Literary Prize


Tan Twan Eng is the winner of the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize, becoming the first Malaysian author to win Asia’s most prestigious literary prize. The author won with his novel The Garden of Evening Mists, which is only the second time the Man Asian Literary Prize has been won by a novel originally written in English.

The novel, set during the aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, won the USD 30,000 award, from a shortlist of five books spanning the whole Asian continent. Tan beat some big names on the shortlist for the prize, including Nobel laureate Orhan Pamuk with “The Silent House,” Musharraf Ali Farooqi with “Between Clay and Dust,” Jeet Thayil for “Narcopolis,” and Hiromi Kawakami for “The Briefcase.”

Award winning literary critic and journalist Dr. Maya Jaggi was chair of the 2012 judging panel. Joining Jaggi as Prize judges for 2012 were award winning Vietnamese-American novelist Monique Truong and novelist Vikram Chandra, most notably winner of the Commonwealth Writers’ Prize.

Chair Judge, Dr Maya Jaggi, said, “I have experience of judging many literary awards. But our task as a jury was exceptionally difficult, as well as gratifying, because of the outstanding quality and originality of the novels in contention from across Asia, and the strength of our shortlist.

The winner, The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng, revisits the traumatic aftermath of the Japanese occupation of Malaya, and the post-war insurgency against British rule, with stylistic poise and probing intelligence. Taking its aesthetic cues from the artful deceptions of Japanese landscape gardening, it opens up a startling perspective on converging histories, using the feints and twists of fiction to explore its themes of personal and national honour; love and atonement; memory and forgetting; and the disturbing co-existence of cultural refinement and barbarism.

The layering of historical periods is intricate, the descriptions of highland Malaysia are richly evocative, and the characterisation is both dark and compelling. Guarding its mysteries until the very end, this is a novel of subtle power and redemptive grace.”

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Image: Courtesy Myrmidon Books | Tan Twan Eng and his winning work.