TAN Twan Eng is on the 2007 Man Booker Prize longlist!
MALAYSIAN Tan Twan Eng has made it to the 2007 Man Booker Prize for Fiction longlist for his first novel, The Gift of Rain (Myrmidon, 2007), it was announced last night. Congratulations, Twan Eng!
Tan Twan Eng’s much-anticipated début novel, The Gift of Rain is a literary feast of a novel set in the tropical climes of Penang island during the Japanese Occupation of Malaya, told with much lyricism, meditativeness and assuredness of touch. The Gift of Rain tells the story of Philip Hutton, a 16-year-old Anglo-Chinese boy who is forced into collaborating with the Japanese when they occupy his tropical island home of Penang during World War II. Tan has written an atmospheric and well-realised piece of fiction that all Malaysians will be proud of. Penang in the 1930s and ’40s is not just deftly painted in broad brushstrokes, but brought to life in great detail. I remember first listening to a reading of his work in January 2007, and I knew then that we had a winning novel in him.
It’s good to see many new names on the longlist of one of the world’s most prestigious literary honours as long as good writing remain one of the criteria. What’s conspicuous is the absence of literary heavyweights on the list. The only established writers on the list are Ian McEwan and A.N. Wilson. The question is, Will McEwan join the ranks of J.M. Coetzee and Peter Carey as novelists who have won the Booker Prize twice? (Or Booker Prize-winner Salman Rushdie who also won the Booker of Bookers, a special award to celebrate 25 years of the Booker Prize for Fiction, in 1993.)
There are four first-time novelists and several less-familiar ones on the longlist: Peter Ho Davies, Nikita Lalwani, Catherine O’Flynn and Tan Twan Eng. Peter Ho Davies, though longlisted for his first novel, The Welsh Girl (2007), is the author of two well-reviewed collections of stories: The Ugliest House in the World (1998) and Equal Love (2000). Consolation (2006) is Canadian poet and novelist Michael Redhill’s second novel after Martin Sloane (2001) and a collection of stories, Fidelity (2003). Catherine O’Flynn was longlisted for the 2007 Orange Prize for Fiction, but did not get shortlisted. The last time a first-time novelist won the Booker Prize was in 1997: Arundhati Roy for The God of Small Things (1997). Will this be the year that a début novelist gets the prize for the best in literary fiction?
Here’s the official longlist:
1. Darkmans (Fourth Estate) / Nicola Barker
2. Self Help (Picador) / Edward Docx
3. The Gathering (Jonathan Cape) / Anne Enright
4. The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Hamish Hamilton) / Mohsin Hamid
5. The Welsh Girl (Sceptre) / Peter Ho Davies
6. Mister Pip (John Murray) / Lloyd Jones
7. Gifted (Viking) / Nikita Lalwani
8. On Chesil Beach (Jonathan Cape) / Ian McEwan
9. What Was Lost (Tindal Street) / Catherine O’Flynn
10. Consolation (William Heinemann) / Michael Redhill
11. Animal’s People (Simon and Schuster) / Indra Sinha
12. The Gift of Rain (Myrmidon) / Tan Twan Eng
13. Winnie and Wolf (Hutchinson) / A.N. Wilson
The 2007 shortlist will be announced on Thursday, September 6, 2007. The winner will be announced on Tuesday, October 16, 2007, in London.