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Author Tan Twan Eng wins Scott prize for historical fiction

Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng smiles during an interview in Hong Kong March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Bobby Yip
Malaysian writer Tan Twan Eng smiles during an interview in Hong Kong March 5, 2008. REUTERS/Bobby Yip

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng has won the Walter Scott Prize, which honors historical fiction writers, for his post-World War Two novel, "The Garden of Evening Mists."

Tan, who was born in Penang, Malaysia, and lives in South Africa, accepted the prize on Friday at the Brewin Dolphin Borders Book Festival in Melrose, Scotland. It was presented by the Duke of Buccleuch, who established the award four years ago.

The duke is a distant descendant of the prize's namesake, whose works include the 19th century historical novels "Waverly," "Ivanhoe" and "Rob Roy."

Tan is the first writer from outside the United Kingdom to win the award after new rules last year made books by authors from all Commonwealth nations eligible for the 25,000 pound ($33,364) prize.

"The Garden of Evenings Mists" is set in the Malaysian jungle in the aftermath of World War Two and is Tan's second novel, following his 2007 book, "The Gift of Rain."

"'The Garden of Evening Mists' is the book that left the deepest imprint on us," the judging panel of Kirsty Wark, Louise Richardson, Jonathan Tweedie, Elizabeth Laird, Elizabeth Buccleuch and chair Alistair Moffat said in a statement.

"The poignancy of both remembering and forgetting is what this book is all about ... It is pungent and atmospheric; a rich, enigmatic, layered novel in which landscapes part and merge, and part again," they said.

Other entries on the shortlist for the prize included "Bring Up the Bodies" by Hilary Mantel, who won the first prize in 2010, as well as novels by English writers Rose Tremain, Pat Barker and Anthony Quinn and Australian Thomas Keneally.

(Reporting by Chris Michaud; Editing by Bill Trott)

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