Written by Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng, The Garden of Evening Mists has been recognised as one of the best books of the 21st Century by The Guardian.
The book takes shape in three parts as it narrates the life and experiences of the protagonist as a Japanese prisoner during World War II, and later as an apprentice of a Japanese gardener.
The book was published in January 2012 and is the author’s second novel, first being The Gift Of Rain in 2007. The Garden of Evening Mists was awarded the Man Asian Literary Prize in 2012 and the Walter Scott Prize under the Historical fiction category.
The author of new collection Love + Hate joined us to answer your questions – from why he writes about sex to the state of Britain after the election, via Kafka and David Bowie, catch up with his answers here: The Guardian
‘I would say that writing today, particularly writing in English – which is the form I’m most aware of – is in a surprisingly healthy state, and that new writing from India, Pakistan and the whole subcontinent is very lively at the moment. There is also much new writing coming out of Africa. So despite people speaking all the time about the death of the novel, and indeed of writing altogether, people clearly haven’t given up on the idea that the novel – and I mean in particular the novel – is a central form for expressing both the social and psychological depths of human life.’
The author of Schindler’s Ark and The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith joins nine other Australians to be recognised by the council at 2015 awards: The Guardian
The Australia Council has announced it will award the novelist Thomas Keneally for his lifetime achievement in literature. Keneally is one of 10 Australians to be recognised by the council for outstanding contributions to the arts landscape in 2015.
The Australian author of The Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith, The Widow and Her Hero and Schindler’s Ark, for which he won the Man Booker prize in 1982, will be presented with the award at a ceremony in Sydney on 19 March.
William Dalrymple’s account of how the East India Company conquered, subjugated and plundered vast tracts of south Asia: The Guardian
One of the very first Indian words to enter the English language was the Hindustani slang for plunder: “loot”. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, this word was rarely heard outside the plains of north India until the late 18th century, when it suddenly became a common term across Britain. To understand how and why it took root and flourished in so distant a landscape, one need only visit Powis Castle.
The last hereditary Welsh prince, Owain Gruffydd ap Gwenwynwyn, built Powis castle as a craggy fort in the 13th century; the estate was his reward for abandoning Wales to the rule of the English monarchy. But its most spectacular treasures date from a much later period of English conquest and appropriation: Powis is simply awash with loot from India, room after room of imperial plunder, extracted by the East India Company in the 18th century. Read more
From Rana Plaza back to the Lancashire mills, the story of an industry happy to exploit: Sukhdev Sandhu reviews The Song of the Shirt: Cheap Clothes Across Continents and Centuries by Jeremy Seabrook in The Guardian
Amit Chaudhuri’s Calcutta, Rana Dasgupta’s Capital (on Delhi), Amitava Kumar’sA Matter of Rats (on Patna): not a few exacting portraits of Asian cities have been published recently. In The Song of the Shirt (its title comes from an 1843 Thomas Hood poem), Dhaka is depicted as a place where “the workers are disposable, rags of humanity”. And yet, for all its darkness, it’s also a beacon for those displaced or demoralised by a rural life populated by the likes of “a woman transplanting rice seedlings, mining the gestures of her drowned sister in the waters of the paddy field; the woman beating sheaves of rice against the threshing stone; the man carrying his implements over his shoulder at the end of a long day hoeing and weeding on land he will never own; the family contemplating the eroded fields that will be deposited elsewhere as someone else’s fertile silt.”
‘The real story here is that of a man destroyed by the ideas upon which he has built his life’: The Guardian
“I was very consciously trying to write for an international audience,”Kazuo Ishiguro says of The Remains of the Day in his Paris Review interview (“The Art of Fiction,” No. 196). “One of the ways I thought I could do this was to take a myth of England that was known internationally – in this case, the English butler.” Read more
Immigration has become a prison of cliche in Europe: The Guardian
The immigrant has become a contemporary passion in Europe, the vacant point around which ideals clash. Easily available as a token, existing everywhere and nowhere, he is talked about constantly. But in the current public conversation, this figure has not only migrated from one country to another, he has migrated from reality to the collective imagination where he has been transformed into a terrible fiction. Read more
From first hand accounts of gulag survivors to memoirs of defectors once part of the top echelons of government, here’s our pick of the best books on the secretive kingdom: The Guardian
You can learn a lot about a country from literature and, when it comes to North Korea, the appetite for information is huge. From first hand accounts of prison camps survivors to defectors once part of the top echelons of government, here’s our pick of the best books to get you started.
The story of Kang Chol-hwan, a defector who spent 10 years in the notorious Yodok camp because his family was under suspicion for having lived in Japan. Billed as “part horror story, part historical document, part political tract”. Kang defected to South Korea a few years after his release, and went on to work as a journalist for Chosun Ilbo. Read more
In the third of our series on literary definitions, Elizabeth Edmondson argues that Jane Austen never imagined she was writing Literature. Posterity made that decision for her: The Guardian
“Genre fiction” is a nasty phrase – when did genre turn into an adjective? But I object to the term for a different reason. It’s weasel wording, in that it conflates lit fic with literature. It was clever marketing by publishers to set certain contemporary fiction apart and declare it Literature – and therefore Important, Art and somehow better than other writing. Read more
An eminent Indian writer, a would-be biographer … Mark Lawson spots the spectre of VS Naipaul behind Hanif Kureishi’s enjoyably erratic performance in The Last Word: The Guardian
The biographical movie, whether dramatising the life of Abraham Lincoln or an American cargo captain seized by pirates, dominates current cinema. One of the more intriguing examples is Paul Thomas Anderson’s The Master, a pseudo-biographical drama in which much of the life of the writer and founder of Scientology L Ron Hubbard is given to a fictional character with a different name.
Amid a torrent of biographical fiction – topped by Hilary Mantel’s Thomas Cromwell trilogy –Hanif Kureishi, in his seventh novel, takes an approach more like Anderson’s. In The Last Word, Harry Johnson, a young biographer, is hired to write a life of Mamoon Azam, a giant of post‑colonial literature who, after the death of his first wife, now lives in Somerset with Liana, his striking younger new wife.