Malaysian author's book shortlisted for 2024 Walter Scott Prize


Tan Twan Eng, the sole Asian writer on the Walter Scott Prize 2024 shortlist, is renowned for his historical fiction-based works, which consistently attract attention in literary awards. He holds the distinction of being the most recognisable Malaysian author on the global literary scene. Photo: The Star/Low Lay Phon

Tan Twan Eng, the Malaysian novelist, has earned a spot on the shortlist for the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction 2024 with his latest work, The House Of Doors. The British literary prize, which grants £25,000 (RM148,900) to the winner, highlights exceptional historical fiction.

“It's a great honour to be on the shortlist of the Walter Scott Prize,” wrote Tan in a Facebook post.

The author, who released The House Of Doors last May, stands out as the sole Asian writer on the shortlist, a testament to his consistent presence in literary awards with his historical fiction-based works.

As the most prominent Malaysian author on the international stage, his contributions to literature have garnered widespread recognition.

He is also a two-time contender for the Walter Scott Prize. His second book, The Garden Of Evening Mists, won in 2013 and was adapted into a 2019 film starring Lee Sin-je, Sylvia Chang, and Hiroshi Abe.

Tan remarked that the timing of the shortlist announcement on May 1 held particular significance, coming a day after the one-year anniversary of the passing of the Duchess of Buccleuch, Lady Elizabeth Kerr, who co-founded the prize.

Penang-born author Tan, winner of the Walter Scott Prize in 2013, is once again in contention for the prestigious British literary award. Photo: HandoutPenang-born author Tan, winner of the Walter Scott Prize in 2013, is once again in contention for the prestigious British literary award. Photo: Handout

“Her spirit, I know, will live on in the Prize,” says Tan, who currently lives in Cape Town, South Africa.

The House Of Doors is one of six books shortlisted from a longlist of 11 titles, alongside The New Life by Tom Crewe, Hungry Ghosts by Kevin Jared Hosein, My Father's House by Joseph O'Connor, In the Upper Country by Kai Thomas and Absolutely and Forever by Rose Tremain.

Tan's acclaimed book was also longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.

The House Of Doors is a tale of betrayal and scandal mainly set in Tan’s hometown of George Town, Penang in the 1920s. It chronicles the lives of lawyer Robert Hamlyn, his wife Lesley, and their friendship with the celebrated British writer Willie Somerset Maugham.

The judges for the Walter Scott Prize noted that this year's shortlist exhibits diversity not only in subject matter but also in writing style.

“At the heart of each novel lies a deep understanding of humanity in all its quirky strengths and weaknesses, with each of the shortlisted authors having something new to say and a new way of saying it,” read a statement from the judging panel.

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 winner announcement and prize-giving event will take place at the Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland on June 13.

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