Award-winning Malaysian novelist Tan Twan Eng’s latest novel, “The House of Doors”, longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize, is an historical story centred around his home, the island of Penang, with its rich setting of cultural heritage and timeless characters.
Who is he: Tan Twan Eng is known for his previous works “The Gift of Rain” and “The Garden of Evening Mists”.
* He often sets his stories in his home country, Malaysia.
* His latest novel, “The House of Doors” is longlisted for the 2023 Booker Prize.
The novel: “The House of Doors” explores lesser-known historical events on the island of Penang in early 20th century.
* It interweaves stories of notable figures such as Chinese revolutionary Sun Yat-sen, British writer W. Somerset Maugham, and a British woman accused of killing her lover.
* The novel brings to light stories as well as real-life legacies that are in danger of being forgotten.
The inspiration: Penang, with its timeless tradesmen, shops, food stalls and crafts, provides Tan with a ‘rich mine’ of story inspiration.
* “Every street has a wonderful story. It’s really a rich mine for any author to write about Penang,” he said in an interview with All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro.
In his words: While Tan is careful about “offending the descendants” of his characters, he aims for accurate representation, showing how colonial perspectives have shaped the motivations of his characters.
* He hopes his novel, told mostly from the British perspective, can shed light on how these colonial perspectives justified power through a sense of “moral superiority”.
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