Early on in the evocative new novel, The Garden of Evening Mists
, the protagonist Teoh Yun Ling comes across an arresting pair of statues in her friend's tea estate gardens. It is only fitting that one of them is Mnemosyne, the Greek goddess of memory. The other one, Teoh Yun Ling is told, is her twin, the goddess of forgetting. This vignette might well capture the premise of this fantastic novel by Malaysian author Tan Twan Eng - that we spend almost our entire lives trying to find harmony between the twin pillars of memory and forgetfulness.
It is the late '80s and Yun Ling, a prominent Supreme Court justice in independent Malaysia has just retired and moved back from Kuala Lumpur, the country's capital, to her home in the country's highlands. "Yun Ling has been recently diagnosed with aphasia and she retires so that she can document her past while she still has a...
Beyond the Book
The Japanese gardener Nakamura Aritomo in The Garden of Evening Mists
is an accomplished ukiyo-e artist
. This art form, like most others, was a product of time and place but ukiyo-e
was especially so.
Hundreds of years ago (1615-1868) the Tokugawa shoguns ruled Japan according to a strict class-based, hierarchical society. They made Tokyo (then known as Edo) their capital and the city grew to be a thriving and vibrant one. The Tokugawa placed warriors such as themselves first, followed by farmers, artisans and merchants. The artisans and merchants were considered lower classes and were subject to severely repressive laws that governed how they dressed and lived. The shoguns understood, however, that the merchant class was a particularly thriving one and...