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Sunday 21 October 2018

'We live in golden age of prose,' says Barry as he is named Laureate for Irish Fiction

Anne Enright, President Michael D Higgins, and Sebastian Barry at the announcement of Laureate for Irish Fiction 2018-2021 in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Maxwells
Anne Enright, President Michael D Higgins, and Sebastian Barry at the announcement of Laureate for Irish Fiction 2018-2021 in Dublin yesterday. Photo: Maxwells
Allison Bray

Allison Bray

Award-winning writer Sebastian Barry is to succeed Anne Enright as the Laureate for Irish Fiction, President Michael D Higgins has announced.

The Wicklow-based author (62) will begin the three-year term later this month after taking over the helm from Ireland's first Laureate for Irish Fiction Anne Enright, who won the 2007 Man Booker Prize for 'The Gathering'.

Speaking after the honorary role was announced by the President at an Arts Council ceremony yesterday, the author, poet and playwright paid tribute to readers for the role they play in the "life of books".

"Writers reading their own work can make an illuminating music and show something important about it in the very act of 'singing' it," he said.

"I would like to pay homage to this during the course of my laureateship.

"Also to acknowledge the part played by readers in the life of books - in many forms - of course, the necessarily private, but also in the newer form of the book club, an activity that can work surely anywhere, even in prisons, in detention centres, in hospitals, places where a life might otherwise be temporarily circumscribed. So I would hope to try and honour that."

He added that his predecessor has "set a very high bar".

"It's a joyous moment. After 40 years of work, mere longevity has given me a clear and wide perspective on the fabulous generations now at work in Ireland," he said.

"It is no burden to assert, to as many people as possible in as many places as possible, that we live in a golden age of prose writing in Ireland.

"And I am really happy to be the ambassador of this rather stupendous reality for a few years."

The Trinity College alumnus is the only author who has twice won the Costa Book of the Year award, for his 2008 novel 'The Secret Scripture' and 'Days Without End' in 2016.

According to the international selection panel led by poet Paul Muldoon, "With his soul-searching, heart-stopping prose Sebastian Barry takes Irish fiction where it hasn't been before.

"With transcendent insight as well as a storyteller's ingenuity, he teaches us to see the world differently, and to look more deeply into our own hearts.

"This most lyrical of myth-makers magically re-arranges our synapses."

Irish Independent

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