Wednesday 22 October 2014

Irish writers in Booker coup with two nominations

John Spain

Published 24/07/2014 | 02:30

Niall Williams
Niall Williams

Two Irish writers, Niall Williams and Joseph O'Neill, have been named on the Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist.

Clare-based Niall Williams, born in Dublin in 1958, is something of a surprise since he has not been to the forefront among Irish writers in recent years.

He had a huge critical and commercial hit with his first book 'Four Letters of Love' a semi-mystical tale of faith, love, coincidence and a couple destined to meet.

But that was back in 1998 and his novels since then have failed to make as much impact. His new one, however, for which he has been nominated, has been seen as a return to form.

'History of the Rain' is about the bedridden daughter of a dead poet, who is home from school on the small family farm in Clare after a collapse. In her attic room beneath the falling rain, she is in search of her father through his library of books. The novel is a celebration of books, love and the healing power of the imagination.

New York-based Joseph O'Neill, born in Cork in 1964, is probably the most unsung talent among contemporary Irish writers.

His book 'Netherland' was awarded the 2009 PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction and was longlisted for the 2008 Man Booker Prize. It was hailed as the best post-9/11 novel by critics on both sides of the Atlantic.

His nominated book 'The Dog' which won't be published until September, is about a man at a dead end in his life who accepts an old college friend's offer of a job in Dubai as the overseer of an enormous family fortune.

Enormous

This year is the first Man Booker prize to admit novels from across the globe as long as they are written in English and in that context it is quite an achievement to have two Irish writers on the longlist of 13.

There had been a fear that American writers would predominate but that has not happened. It is still a surprise, however, that the longlist does not include the new books by Joseph O'Connor and Sebastian Barry.

The 13 books are by four American, six British, one Australian and the two Irish writers. One former winner, Howard Jacobson, is on the longlist along with two previously shortlisted authors, Ali Smith and David Mitchell.

Also on the list is David Nicholls, whose previous novel 'One Day' was an enormous bestseller and has been filmed starring Anne Hathaway.

The Man Booker is worth £50,000 to the winner.

Previous winners include Hilary Mantel for 'Wolf Hall' and its sequel 'Bring up the Bodies', and two novels where sales have topped two million copies each, 'Schindler's Ark' by Thomas Keneally and 'Life of Pi' by Yann Martel.

The shortlist of six will be announced in September and the winning novel will be revealed on October 14.

Previous Irish winners of the Booker, which guarantees global fame, were Iris Murdoch (1978), Roddy Doyle (1993), John Banville (2006) and Anne Enright (2007).

Irish Independent

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