Malaysia's master of historical fiction longlisted for Walter Scott Prize

'I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to be longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize 2024, one of the most prestigious and important literary prizes in the world,' says Tan. Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon

Author Tan Twan Eng, Malaysia’s master of historical fiction, has been longlisted for the 2024 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction, which awards £25,000 (RM151,330) to the winner.

This won’t be Tan’s first attempt at the prize – his acclaimed second novel, The Garden Of Evening Mists, won the British literary award in 2013.

He was the first (and only) Malaysian to win the award, as well as the first author from outside Britain to have won, following the introduction of the rule allowing books by authors from the Commonwealth to be submitted for consideration.

This time around, his latest release, The House Of Doors, is longlisted alongside 11 other titles, including Zadie Smith’s The Fraud and Benjamin Myers’ Cuddy. It was also longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.

Following the longlist announcement, Tan, who resides in Cape Town, South Africa, says: “I’m absolutely delighted and honoured to be longlisted for the Walter Scott Prize 2024, one of the most prestigious and important literary prizes in the world. It’s also – as far as I’m aware of – the only major prize in the UK celebrating historical fiction.”

Mainly set in Tan’s hometown of George Town, Penang in the 1920s, The House Of Doors tells a fictionalised account of celebrated English writer William Somerset Maugham's travels through the Federated Malay States.

While in Penang, Maugham and his secretary Gerald Haxton stay in the home of Maugham's friend, Robert Hamlyn, who is a lawyer. Maugham develops a friendship with Robert's wife Lesley, a housewife who has many more layers to her than meets the eye.

Founded in 2010, The Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction is one of the largest literary awards in Britain and is now managed by The Abbotsford Trust, which is responsible for Sir Walter Scott’s Borders home. The shortlist will be announced in May, and the winner announcement and prize-giving event will take place at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland in June.

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