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Anna Burns wins the €100k International Dublin Literary Award for her novel Milkman

The award is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English.

Anna Burns receiving her award.
Anna Burns receiving her award.

IRISH AUTHOR ANNA Burns has won the 2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award, sponsored by Dublin City Council, for her novel Milkman.

The announcement was made today by Dublin Lord Mayor Hazel Chu. at a virtual ceremony broadcast from Dublin. It also marked the beginning of the International Literature Festival Dublin.

The €100k prize is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland and the fourth woman to claim the award.

The books are nominated by public libraries around the globe and the award recognises both writers and translators. 

The award is usually presented by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of Dublin City Council in the Mansion House, but due to the pandemic the organisers were unable to invite Burns to travel to Dublin from her home in England for the ceremony.

Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom, Adrian O’Neill, was on hand to present Irish author Anna Burns with her award.

Commenting on her win, Anna Burns said: “What an honour. I’m thrilled to bits and am about to break into my sevens with the excitement of it all! This is an extraordinary honour – especially given the fantastic list I find myself on. I thank the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, and Dublin City Council for being the patron and the host of this generous award. Also I salute them for representing Dublin’s position at the cultural heart of worldwide literature.”

She also praised libraries, saying: “To go from being a wee girl haggling over library cards with my siblings, my friends, neighbours, my parents and my aunt, to be standing here today receiving this award is phenomenal for me, and I thank you all again for this great honour.”

Lord Mayor and Patron of the Award, Hazel Chu, said that Milkman is “a wonderful book” and Burns is a “massively talented writer”. 

Burns was born in Belfast and lives in East Sussex, England. She is the author of three novels, No Bones, Little Constructions and Milkman, and of the novella Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Milkman won the 2018 Man Booker Prize. 

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The book is about a young woman who attracts the unavoidable attention of a dangerous older man. It, along with the shortlisted and longlisted novels, is available to borrow from public libraries around Ireland, and on digital loan as eBooks and eAudiobooks on BorrowBox.

The 2020 judging panel was led by Professor Chris Morash of Trinity College Dublin, and includes Yannick Garcia, Shreela Ghosh, Niall MacMonagle, Cathy Rentzenbrink and Zoë Strachan.

They said:

Reading this book is an immersive experience. Once experienced, Anna Burns’ Milkman will never be forgotten. The reader becomes the world of the book. There was simply no other novel like it on the longlist. Many novels come and go but this tour-de-force is a remarkable achievement. We read it with huge admiration and gratitude. When we finished it, we felt enriched, informed, wiser.
A description of what this original book is about fails to do it justice. Its brilliance lies in its compelling, questioning voice, its strong individual, resilient narrator, its evocation of place, its threatening and sinister atmosphere, its description of what Burns calls lives of ‘nervous caution’.
Milkman soon emerged as a frontrunner and naming it our eventual winner was a unanimous decision.

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