Tan Twan Eng scoops Asia’s top literary prize 

2012 Winner of the Man Asian Literary Prize 

Tan Twan Eng scoops Asia’s top literary prize for The Garden of Evening Mists

Tan Twan Eng, 2012 MALP Winner & Pierre Lagrange, Chairman of Man Asia (Photo Credit: Johnny Gin)

Tan Twan Eng for The Garden of Evening Mists (Photo Credit: Johnny Gin)

HONG KONG – Tan Twan Eng was announced tonight as 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. All previous winners, except Ilustrado by Miguel Syjuco (2008), won as English translations. 

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.

The five shortlisted novels, selected from a longlist of 15, are: 

-         Between Clay and Dust - Musharraf Ali Farooqi (Pakistan)

-         The Briefcase – Hiromi Kawakami (Japan)

-         Silent House - Orhan Pamuk (Turkey)

-         The Garden of Evening Mists - Tan Twan Eng (Malaysia)

-         Narcopolis - Jeet Thayil (India)

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.”

Professor David Parker, Executive Director of the Asian Literary Prize, the organising body of the award, said, “Achieved with the seemingly effortless poise of a remarkable fictional artistry, Tan Twan Eng’s winning novel will be prized by all those who cannot resist the mastery of language.”

Last year’s winner, Please Look After Mom by South Korean writer Kyung-sook Shin has gone on to sell over 2m copies worldwide. Previous winners of the Prize include Bi Feiyu (2010), Su Tong (2009), Miguel Syjuco (2008) and Jiang Rong (2007).

Following the announcement of the 2012 winner, the current sponsor Man Group will relinquish its title sponsorship. For 2013, a new title sponsor will sponsor the Asian Literary Prize. Negotiations with interested sponsors are currently ongoing, with an announcement to be made late April 2013.


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