The Malaysian writer author Tan Twan Eng has won the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction for his second novel The Garden of Evening Mists. He travelled from his home in South Africa to be at the ceremony, and was awarded his prize by the Duke of Buccleuch at a special event at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in Melrose, tonight.
The Garden of Evening Mists is the first novel by an overseas writer to have won the four year-old Prize, after a new rule was introduced last year making books by authors from the Commonwealth eligible for entry. The novel prevailed over a strong shortlist including Bring up the Bodies by Hilary Mantel, which has already carried off some of the UK's most prestigious literary awards, and novels by English writers Rose Tremain, Pat Barker, and Anthony Quinn, and by Australian author Thomas Keneally.
The Judges commented:
'All the authors on this year's shortlist have written wonderful books, illuminating times and breathing life into personalities in a way that is enlightening and which brings lasting pleasure to the reader. However The Garden of Evening Mists is the book that left the deepest imprint on us.
'The poignancy of both remembering and forgetting is what this book is all about. One of the strengths of the Walter Scott Prize is that we can be broad in our reach. Set in the jungle-clad highlands of Malaya, this year's winner leads us into the troubled aftermath of World War Two. It is pungent and atmospheric; a rich, enigmatic, layered novel in which landscapes part and merge, and part again.’
The award ceremony in Melrose was presented by James Naughtie, and four of the shortlisted authors were present to hear the announcement. Tan Twan Eng was awarded with his cheque and a striking glass sculpture by the Duke of Buccleuch, sponsor of the Prize and distant kinsman of Sir Walter Scott. Earlier in the day, the authors had the opportunity to tour Scott's home, Abbotsford, which re-opens to the public on 4th July following extensive refurbishment.
The Walter Scott Prize is one of the UK’s richest literary prizes, and honours Scott’s achievements and his place as one of the world’s most influential novelists. To qualify, novels must be set sixty years ago or more, must have been written in English, and have been published in the preceding year.
The Garden of Evening Mists was chosen from a shortlist of six novels, with settings ranging from Tudor and Restoration England, to Victorian London, and two perspectives on the Western Front in World War One.
The judging panel for the 2013 Walter Scott Prize comprises Kirsty Wark, Louise Richardson, Jonathan Tweedie, Elizabeth Laird and Elizabeth Buccleuch, and the chair of judges is Alistair Moffat. The judges’ criteria include:
‘elegance and strength of writing, characterisation, authenticity of dialogue, the truthfulness of the novel to its period, and the importance of what it tells us about our world in the past and today.