Petaling Jaya (The Star/ANN) - Malaysian state Penang-born author Tan Twan Eng has become the first Malaysian shortlisted for the prestigious Man Booker Prize.
Tan, a former intellectual property lawyer, admitted to not expecting his novel "The Garden of Evening Mists" to be shortlisted, although he had been harbouring hopes that it would be.
"I feel honoured to be shortlisted with such a talented group of authors," said the 40-year-old.
"On the morning of the shortlist announcement, my agent rang me and I rushed over to her office as there were invitations for cocktails and dinner from the Man Booker committee to confirm interviews.
"There were hundreds of people at the reception that evening. I was introduced to the judges, and I got to meet many of the writers and columnists I've been reading about over the years.
"It's been overwhelming, with almost no time to stop and think!"
The other nominees are "Bringing Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel, "Narcopolis" by Jeet Thayil, "Swimming Home" by Deborah Levy, "The Lighthouse" by Alison Moore and "Umbrella" by Will Self.
The winner will be announced on October 16.
Set in Cameron Highlands during the Japanese occupation, "The Garden of Evening Mists" is the story of Teoh Yun Ling, a survivor of a brutal Japanese camp, who is taken as an apprentice to Nakamura Aritomo, a former gardener to the Emperor of Japan, to design a garden in memory of her sister.
"I was writing about characters who, because of what they had experienced, were emotionally isolated, cut off from the people around them, their pain hidden from view. The 1950s Cameron Highlands reflected this sense of isolation: it was a small hill station, shrouded in mists, concealed from the rest of the country by distance and climate," Tan said about his novel.
Tan was previously longlisted for the Man Booker in 2007 for his novel "The Gift of Rain", which won third prize in the fiction category of the 2009 Popular-The Star Readers' Choice Awards.
Considered one of the most important literary awards in the world, the Man Booker Prize for Fiction is awarded each year to the best original full-length novel, written in the English language, by a citizen of the Commonwealth of Nations, Ireland, or Zimbabwe. The prize money amounts to 50,000 pounds (US$80,587).
Previous winners include Salman Rushdie ("Midnight's Children", 1981), Arundhati Roy ("The God of Small Things", 1997), Ian McEwan ("Amsterdam", 1998) and Yann Martel ("Life of Pi", 2002).