Like the gardener who painstakingly prunes and shapes his plants, Tan Twan Eng parses his prose until he is happy with how it flows. It is a long process that involves constant thought, rereading and rewriting, reading passages aloud, the input of literary friends and having an ear for words and nuances.
“My main point as a writer is I always try to be very clear. It’s probably because I was a lawyer as well — we try to make our documents very clear. I don’t like reading books where the author thinks he’s being clever by making things difficult for the reader,” he says.
The author of The Garden of Evening Mists (Myrmidon Books) certainly has the reader’s ear. His novel was among the six on the 2012 Man Booker shortlist. It won the 2012 Man Asian Literary Prize and the Walter Scott Prize 2013 for historical fiction and was shortlisted for the 2014 International Impac Dublin Literary Award.
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