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War of words as five Irish novels battle for €100k Impac prize

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Nominated authors Mary Morrissy, Niamh Boyce and Donal Ryan. (Inset) Roddy Doyle and Colum McCann. PICTURE JASON CLARKE PHOTOGRAPHY

Nominated authors Mary Morrissy, Niamh Boyce and Donal Ryan. (Inset) Roddy Doyle and Colum McCann. PICTURE JASON CLARKE PHOTOGRAPHY

Jason Clarke Photography

Colum McCann

Colum McCann

Roddy Doyle

Roddy Doyle

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Nominated authors Mary Morrissy, Niamh Boyce and Donal Ryan. (Inset) Roddy Doyle and Colum McCann. PICTURE JASON CLARKE PHOTOGRAPHY

FIVE Irish novelists have been nominated for the 20th Impac Dublin Literary Award - which is worth €100,000.

The Irish titles are 'The Herbalist' by Niamh Boyce; 'The Guts' by Roddy Doyle; 'TransAtlantic' by Colum McCann; 'The Rising of Bella Casey' by Mary Morrissey; and 'The Thing About December' by Donal Ryan.

They will be up against some stiff competition from the winners of other prestigious international prizes - including 'The Narrow Road to the Deep North' by Richard Flanagan - winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize; 'The Goldfinch' by Donna Tartt, winner of the 2014 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and 'The Good Lord Bird' by James McBride, winner of the 2013 National Book Award.

A total of 142 books were nominated by libraries worldwide for the €100,000 award, which is the world's most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English.

Publisher Michael O'Brien told the Irish Independent that O'Brien Press were delighted to be the publisher of 'The Rising of Bella Casey'. It is set at the time of the 1916 Rising in Dublin and focuses on the life of enigmatic beauty Bella Casey, sister of famed playwright Sean O'Casey.

"There's such competition out there internationally that even making it to the long-list is like winning," he said.

Long-listed writer Donal Ryan - who recently took a sabbatical from his job as a labour inspector for the Department of Enterprise - said that he had just finished the first of a new three-book deal and was delighted to have been listed for the award.

Now that he is writing full-time, the author of 'The Spinning Heart' admitted his discipline was "not as good as I thought it would be" - before revealing that he already has a quarter of each of his next two books written following "a burst of creativity three years ago".

Dublin city librarian Margaret Hayes said the list of books was nominated by libraries in 114 cities in 39 countries worldwide. Some 49 of the books are titles in translation, spanning 16 languages, with 29 first novels.

Dublin Lord Mayor Christy Burke launched the 2015 award, saying Impac puts the capital on the literary world map.

"Dublin is a Unesco City of Literature and cultural tourism is a vital part of the city's economy," he said.

Remarking that Dubliners were "great readers" he said: "There is no doubt that our rich literary and cultural life makes Dublin a great destination for tourists, for students, and for overseas businesses, and indeed adds to the quality of life for all of us."

Dublin City Council chief executive Eoin Keegan said the council had decided to continue with the award, despite losing the sponsor, Impac.

Meanwhile the judges on the panel are also drawn from around the world and include Irish novelist Christine Dwyer Hickey, author of 'The Cold Eye of Heaven' and Mexican writer Jordi Soler.

The shortlist will be made public on April 15, 2015 and the Lord Mayor will announce the winner on June 17.

 

Who has best chance of winning?

by John Spain

At €100,000 it's a nice round figure and it's the world's most valuable annual literary prize. So which of the five Irish novels among the 142 titles up for the 2015 Impac Dublin Literary Award has the best chance of winning the literary lotto?

All five are interesting and accessible books, which is not surprising since the nominations come from libraries worldwide, reflecting what people are actually reading rather than what critics say they should be reading. Any one of them would be a worthy winner.

Roddy Doyle's 'The Guts' brought readers back to Barrytown to find that Jimmy Rabbitte, who put the Commitments together back in the '8os, is now 47 and has bowel cancer. But he's still optimistic. It would be a popular win but may not be different enough to impress the judges.

Colum McCann has already won the IMPAC for 'Let the Great World Spin', which might count against him. But favourite among the Irish is probably Donal Ryan's 'The Thing About December'.

Irish Independent