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'It promotes excellence': Why the Dublin Literary Award is one of the most prestigious in the world

The winner will be announced on Monday May 23rd.

“IT’S OFTEN SAID that the Dublin Literary Award bridges cultures and promotes diversity.”

This is according to Anne-Marie Kelly, Director of the Office of Dublin UNESCO City of Literature.

In its 27th year, the Dublin Literary Award – which is sponsored by Dublin City Council – is “the world’s most most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English, worth €100,000 to the winner,” she says. If the winning book has been translated, the author receives €75,000 and the translator receives €25,000. 

What makes this award different to other literary accolades, however, is that the nominations are chosen by librarians and readers from a network of libraries around the world, rather than by publishers or other members of the industry.

“It is an inclusive award which accepts books which are debut novels and books in translation from other languages into English, and as such brings the reader closer to stories created by authors in other cultures,” says Anne-Marie.

This year, the shortlist of six novels features authors who are French, Irish, Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg (Alderville First Nation, Canadian), New Zealander and Nigerian. The shortlisted book by an Irish author is Danielle McLoughlin’s debut novel, The Art of Falling.

The shortlisted titles are:

  1. Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey (New Zealander)
  2. At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop (French)
  3. The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi (Nigerian)
  4. The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin (Irish)
  5. Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson (Michi Saagiig Nishnaabeg)
  6. The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter (French)

IG_Post_2 (2) The shortlisted books for this year's Dublin Literary Award. Supplied Supplied

Two of the shortlisted authors are from France, with Julien Masson and the team at Bibliotheque Publique d’Information choosing L’Art de Perdre by Alice Zeniter.

“It’s a beautiful novel which was published in 2017 and translated as The Art of Losing by Frank Wynne,” he says. 

Speaking about the award, Julien says it’s “a great opportunity for librarians to promote our favourites among our national authors, and to discover literature from all over the world. It’s such an honour to be engaged in this event which promotes excellence in literature.”

The winning book is decided by a panel of five judges, comprising Dublin author Sinéad Moriarty, Singapore poet and editor Alvin Pang, and Professor Emmanuel Dandaura, a multiple award-winning playwright based in Nigeria. It also includes Cork-born Clíona Ní Ríordáin who is a Professor of English in Paris, and writer and journalist Victoria White.  

shutterstock_1901439172 Shutterstock Shutterstock

Non-voting chair of the panel of five judges this year is Chris Morash. “The thing that makes the Dublin Literary Award completely different from any of the other literary awards is that the longlist isn’t chosen by a clique of editors and publishers – it’s chosen by readers and by librarians. It’s like a map of world libraries. 

“This year we’ve had 94 libraries from 40 countries involved,” he says. “It’s marvellous.” 

He also highlights how the award gives authors at different stages of their career the chance to be nominated – or even to win. “One of the things I love about this prize is that it’s first time novelists in the same pool as Novel Laureates. It’s just whoever has the best novel in particular that year. 

“As chair, I always say to the judges, ‘we’re judging the novel in front of us. We’re not judging the life’s work.’ It kind of levels the playing field every year.” 

The winner of this year’s Dublin Literary Award will be announced on Monday May 23 at 1pm, launching the International Literature Festival Dublin. With the past two ceremonies being online only, Chris says the in-person awards ceremony this year is a “great thing for Dublin”. 

“It’s wonderful to be back in person and to see it all happen live.” 

Book tickets to attend the Dublin Literary Award winner announcement in-person or online here, and to attend the Winner in Conversation event at 6pm on Monday May 23 hereFind out more about the award, sponsored by Dublin City Council, here

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