Readersforum's Blog

May 22, 2013

Tan Twan Eng interview: ‘I have no alternative but to write in English’

giftBy Stephen McEwen

Tan Twan Eng’s first novel was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize, his second was shortlisted and then won the Man Asian Literary Prize. To say that his work over the past five years has received praise and attention would be something of an understatement. Likened to Ishiguro and Ondaatje, his work explores the point at which untold personal history collides with the bellicose history of mid-twentieth century East Asia.

In The Gift of Rain the elderly Philip Hutton is living out his days as a postcolonial remnant in his childhood home of Penang, with little but his memories to keep him company. These are revisited with arrival of Michiko, the former lover of Japanese diplomat Hayato Endo, with whom Philip had developed a strong relationship in the 1930s. Their relationship is jeopardised when loyalties of family, nation and martial arts clash as the Japanese come to occupy Malaya in 1941.

His second novel, The Garden of Evening Mists similarly looks at the Japanese occupation of Malaysia.

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