This Malaysian island offers endless stories and inspiration. Just ask Tan Twan Eng
Tan Twan Eng's latest novel, The House of Doors, is a decade-shifting epic that delves into tragedy, cultural dissonance and memory loss.
Who is he? Twan Eng is an award-winning Malaysian novelist known for The Gift of Rain and The Garden of Evening Mists, and for setting his stories in his home country.
What's going on? Twan Eng's latest novel, The House of Doors, is a historical exploration of stories that all share the risk of being forgotten.
What's he saying? Twan Eng joined All Things Considered host Ari Shapiro to discuss the inspiration behind the novel, and the care he took with the real life legacies of his characters.
On what it's like to walk through the streets of George Town, Penang's main city.
It really feels like you're walking in Penang 100 years ago. The old shop houses are there. They've got the original names of the streets. A lot of the tradesmen and craftsmen are still working there, carrying on the jobs that their grandparents did. A lot of the food stalls, the street hawkers, they are still continuing the tradition started by their grandparents. So there's a sense of timelessness when you walk in the streets of Penang. And the only way you can really absorb and appreciate Penang is to walk there.
And why it makes such an inspiring setting for a story:
It's so rich with stories. You know, if you walk down the streets of the town, every house behind the doors, you wonder: What are the stories there? Tales of love and death and disappointment and fears and hopes. There's so many stories. Every street has a wonderful story. It's really a rich mine for any author to write about Penang.
On the thing all of his plotlines share:
The one thing they had in common was that these events are slowly being forgotten by readers today, especially the younger readers. For instance, the murder trial of Ethel Proudlock in Kuala Lumpur, which took place almost 100 years ago, almost nobody today knows much about it. And even I first came to know about it through The Letter, Somerset Maugham's short story.
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And being careful with the real life legacies of his characters:
I'm quite careful about offending their descendants. Well, you know, in a way, I don't want to make people unhappy or create a lot of misunderstandings. I want to present the character as authentic and accurate. So I don't go out of the way to just highlight the negative parts. But I also try to create a fair representation of the character.
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So, what now?
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