Thursday 18 January 2018

McCann is readers' choice for world's richest literary prize

Colum McCann with the International IMPAC Award at the Mansion House, Dublin last night
Colum McCann with the International IMPAC Award at the Mansion House, Dublin last night

John Spain Books Editor

COLUM McCANN last night visited his hometown to pick up the most valuable annual literary prize in the world

The Dubliner's acclaimed novel 'Let the Great World Spin' has won this year's IMPAC Award, which is worth €100,000.

"I might buy a house on Ailesbury Road -- or even two houses," McCann (46) joked before the awards dinner in the Mansion House in Dublin last night.

The New York-based writer has already won the prestigious National Book Award in the US with his bestselling novel, which is set in 1974.

"I am working on a very ambitious project that will probably take a couple more years, so stretched out over those years this award will help give me voice," he said.

"I will use it to hide away and write."

He was one of three Irish authors on the shortlist of 10 for this year's IMPAC Dublin Literary Award -- the highest number in the 16 years of the prestigious prize.

The other two were Colm Toibin for 'Brooklyn' and William Trevor for 'Love and Summer'.

The 10 novels were chosen by the judges from a total of 162 on a longlist nominated by libraries around the world.

The IMPAC is unique among literary prizes because the nominations come from libraries -- giving a voice to ordinary readers rather than critics.

The nominations this year came from libraries in 126 cities in 43 countries worldwide.

"I am stunned by this whole thing," McCann said.


"It's the grandest honour an Irish writer can get, to receive an international award on his home turf.

"I think it's a reflection of our global stretch and it's a tribute to our school system."

McCann has lived near Central Park in Manhattan for more than 10 years but says Ireland remains home.

"I grew up here," he said. "This is my country -- always has been, always will be. I may live abroad but I hear the voice of Ireland in everything."

The author's family was not able to make it over for last night's ceremony.

McCann teaches part-time in a New York college.

"I love teaching, so I won't be giving it up," he said. "But the award is a bonus for me and will give me more freedom for writing."

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is managed by Dublin City Libraries, on behalf of Dublin City Council.

It is sponsored by IMPAC, an international management consultancy that has its European headquarters in Dublin.

"Colum McCann joins a long list of eminent novelists to win this award," Dublin Lord Mayor Gerry Breen said last night.

"It is wonderful to have a Dublin winner in the year that Dublin was awarded UNESCO City of Literature designation."

'Let the Great World Spin' is set in New York in 1974, the year a tightrope walker crosses between the newly built Twin Towers.

Far below, the lives of complete strangers spin towards each other in a mosaic of the city.

Irish Independent

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