Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng has become the first overseas writer to win the £25,000 Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival.
Tan’s win, in which he pipped the likes of double-Booker Prize winner Hilary Mantel, was announced at the festival last night (Friday) in Melrose.
Tan’s novel, The Garden of Evening Mists, wowed the judges, and the author, who travelled from his home in South Africa, was presented with his award by the Duke of Buccleuch.
The judges commented: “The Garden of Evening Mists is the book that left the deepest imprint on us. 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. As well as his cheque, Tan was also presented with a striking glass sculpture by the Duke, sponsor of the prize and distant kinsman of Sir Walter Scott.
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.
Accepting his award to loud cheers, Tan, a clearly very popular winner, told a packed festival marquee: “In my country, and I suspect in many other countries around the world, I suspect history is not considered important anymore.
“A prize like the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction plays a very important role in telling the world, that history and historical fiction matters and will always matter.”