Wednesday 22 November 2017

How James Joyce inspired Colombian IMPAC prize winner

uan Gabriel Vásquez
uan Gabriel Vásquez
Pictured are translator Anne McLean and author Juan Gabriel Vásquez. Picture: Jason Clarke Photography.
Nicola Anderson

Nicola Anderson

A distinguished Colombian writer who has won the IMPAC Dublin literary award was inspired by the writings of James Joyce and had a "shock of recognition" when he landed in Dublin, only to realise that he already knew his way around.

Juan Gabriel Vasquez (41) has become the first South American writer to win the prestigious international award for his novel, 'The Sound of Things Falling'.

He beat off competition from 152 other entries nominated by 150 libraries from 39 countries.

The €100,000 prize – organised by Dublin City Council – is the world's largest prize for a single novel published in English and sponsored since its inception by IMPAC, the productivity consultants. However, the awards are without a sponsor for next year.

Mr Vasquez was presented with a cheque for €75,000, with translator Anne McLean winning €25,000.

At the awards ceremony in the Mansion House in Dublin, the writer thanked his translator, joking that he "could not live" in his country without two words imported from Greek: "politician" and "idiots".

Mr Vasquez was 19 when he first read 'Ulysses' and has read it many times since. He revealed that he, as a Colombian man writing about Bogota from his then home in Spain, had been inspired to write by Joyce – a Dublin man who penned perfect descriptions of his native city from Paris.

"I learned many tips and techniques from him," he revealed.

On his first visit to Dublin in 2009, he said he had experienced a "shock of recognition" and could accurately find his way around parts of the city thanks to Leopold Bloom's roamings in 'Ulysses'.

The book was nominated for the IMPAC awards by Mexico City. Nominations are submitted by library systems throughout the world. All 152 novels nominated are available to borrow from Dublin public libraries.

Irish Independent

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