In 2012, the second novel of the young Malaysian writer, “Tan Tuan Eng”, was published, entitled “Evening Fog Garden”, for which he won the “Asian Literary Man Award”, to be the first Malaysian to win the prize sponsored by the English “Man Booker”.
The novel gained tremendous popularity in the years following its release, and earlier this year, a Malaysian English-language drama film was released, embodying the events that occurred in the country during turbulent times of the last century.
The events of the novel take place in Cameron Highlands, famous for its green tea plantations, on the edges of a forest that contained many secrets, and its events take place during 3 different time periods, which are the late eighties, when the main character went to the Japanese garden to obtain professional training in caring for gardens, and begins to write her memoirs, and an era Independence when the main events of the novel took place, and the time of World War II that marks the background of the story.
The novel is classified as one of the masterpieces of historical fiction literature and novels of modern political conflicts, and floats between the dichotomies in an attempt to coexist between contradictions that include remembering and forgetting, peace and violence, art and war, love and hate, etc., and the novel appears in one of its faces as a love story that includes a lot of historical information about Malaysia.
The main character and narrator of the novel, Yun Ling, is the daughter of a prominent Chinese Malaysian family, and she was the only survivor of an invading Japanese forces’ concentration camp in Malaysia during World War II. She also became a retired war crimes judge who bore signs of torture on her body, while her memory of losing her sister in a camp The arrest has no place.
Her experience of arrest, torture and the loss of her sister transformed her into a strict figure towards war criminals, and she became indignant about everything Japanese, and she sought to immortalize the memory of her sister by building a beautiful garden. The novel constantly emphasizes the importance of preserving and reconciling with memory, albeit in unconventional ways.
Judge Yun Ling has served 40 years in the trial of the same Japanese war criminals who held her and her sister Yun Hong hostage in a prison deep in the Malaysian jungle. The untold suffering during her arrest robbed her of her sister, her identity and her future.
After years of legal retaliation without being able to subdue the life-consuming beast of shame and anger, Yun Ling returns to “Yujiri” or the Garden of Evening Mist, where the teachings of “Aritomo”, the famous gardener of the Japanese emperor who abandoned imperial gardens to make a green paradise in Malayo, where His student, who is taught by his art, is the same victim of the crimes of his country’s army.
Time is running out as Yun Ling’s troubled mind is forced to weave scattered paths from ancient maps, on mental journeys that will take her to the lands of Norse mythology, into caves that provide shelter to bird nests, Chinese temples, experience green hill climbing, Japanese horticulture, tattoos and archery, in order to achieve Consistency and coexistence between memory and forgetfulness, truth and deception, guilt, pain and indifference.
While the main story is set in Malaysia, novelist Tan Twain Eng also weaves his account about facts about various colonial regimes, including the struggle of the Boers in South Africa against the British at the turn of the 20th century.
Nevertheless, the novel is filled with contemplation and calm, as if the reader is walking in the beautiful Japanese garden with its Taoist, Buddhist and Shinto elements, and the writer navigates brilliantly between the elements of tranquility and peace and scenes of war and violence that appear in the background of memory and events.
The novel asks what is a human without memories? And you answer that he is a ghost trapped between worlds, without identity, with no future or past. The memory in the novel looks like spots of sunlight in a cloudy valley, changing with the movement of clouds, and every now and then the light falls at a certain point in time, illuminating it for a moment before the clouds close the gap, and the world returns to the shade again.
The symbolism of the novel, which is deeply rooted in the Asian culture and jungles, appears multi-level and can be interpreted in several ways, just like the Japanese garden, but it is drawn with words and shrouded in beauty, mystery and deception, in a non-sequential narrative that blends clues of time and includes truth to historical fiction and archaeological mystery.
Through the narration of stories and the interaction of the characters who clash with the pain of the war, condolences diminish and consolation are absent in the post-war era that was also violent, and in which the fates of Malay, Chinese and Japanese intersect in the novel, as each of them received their share of loss, pain and grief, which may bring them closer together in one way or another. Another far from the courts and litigation yards, and close to art and the embrace of nature.
Yun Ling’s sister
During the Japanese occupation of the country of Malay, Yun Hong – the sister of the protagonist – is forced to become a “pleasure woman” for Japanese soldiers before she dies in the chaos of war. After the war, Yun Ling wants to fulfill her promise to her sister, to build a Japanese garden in their home in Kuala Lumpur.
Instead, she travels to the highlands to visit an old family friend, a South African expatriate and tea plantation who participated in the Boer War in South Africa and lost one of his eyes, and his farm is located on the border of the garden of the Japanese gardener who was known and many wanted to see his garden but preferred to It remains a private sanctuary, and the gardener persuaded Yun Ling to become his student to personally build a garden that honors her sister’s memory.
Despite her bitter attitude towards the Japanese, Yun Ling agreed to receive professional training, and in the end, she and Aritomo became in love.
During Leon Ling’s conversation with a Japanese historian, who was harshly criticized in his country for his attempt to shed light on the war crimes committed by his country’s forces, and on her return to the Japanese garden years later, it was revealed that the Japanese gardener participated in a secret program during the war to hide treasures looted from the occupied lands for the benefit of the empire, Rumors of the so-called “Golden Tulip” program spread widely, and the South African farmer was killed while trying to save his family from the communist guerrillas who came in search of treasure.
The Malaysian writer’s first novel “The Gift of Rain” was about the era of war and the Japanese invasion of Malaysia as well, and the novel was translated into Romanian, Spanish, Italian, Czech, Serbian, French, Russian and others languages.
Malaysian literature is written in one of the 4 main languages of the country – Malay, English, Chinese and Tamil, and depicts various aspects of Malaysian life and history. The oral tradition flourished in the past among Malay, and included folklore, myths, folk tales, epics and poems, while the written novel and short story flourished in the country with the wave of modernization that affected different aspects of life in the country.
During the era of Japanese occupation (from the end of 1941 until the end of World War II 1945), the country was placed under the military administration of the Japanese Imperial Army, and literature was primarily driven to serve imperial interests, and not many fictional or fictional works were written during this period, and only so remained. Little Malawian literature of the 1930s, such as the works of Ishaq Hajj Muhammad and Abdul Rahim Kagai