The IMPAC Prize, cross-border inclusivity and an early Christmas for Patrick McCabe

I’ve spoken about never-ending long-lists here very recently but the Carnegie Prize doesn’t hold a candle to the IMPAC, for which its longest ever long-list was announced on Monday.

The entrants are all nominated by public libraries around the world, with one winner taking home the €100,000 prize when the winner is announced on June 6th next year.

Strangely, perhaps, the official release from IMPAC announced that there were eight Irish novelists on the list, with Belfast’s Jane Gillespie seemingly described as “Northern Irish”. I’m all for a bit of cross-border inclusivity when it comes to literature, so I’ll gladly include Gillespie in the list of Irish nominees.

The nine Irish novelists include Irish-Italian Margaret Mazzantini (nominated by Waterford County Library and Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Roma) and Canada-based Patrick Warner, who was given the nod by The Provincial Resource Library in St. John’s, Newfoundland.

The Irish nominees are:

On Canaan’s Side by Sebastian Barry

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry

The Absolutist by John Boyne

The Dulang Washer by Paul Callan

The Map of Time, by Jane Gillespie

Long Time, No See by Dermot Healy

The Cold Eye of Heaven by Christine Dwyer Hickey

Twice Born by Margaret Mazzantini

Double Talk by Patrick Warner

Last year’s Booker Prize-winning The Sense of an Ending, by Julian Barnes, was the most nominated book having been selected by 15 libraries worldwide, while previous IMPAC winners Andrew Miller and Michel Houellebecq are nominated for Pure and The Map and the Territory respectively.

The judges were also confirmed this week, and Irish writer Patrick McCabe takes his place on an eclectic panel which also includes Salim Bachi, an Algerian novelist based in Paris; Estonian translator, academic and publisher Krista Kaer; London-based Pakistani novelist Kamila Shamsie, and Clive Sinclair, British author and academic.

McCabe is never less than forthright and interesting to listen to, and he was typically candid in speaking about the role of IMPAC judge:

The reason I agreed to be one of the judges is because I don’t read an awful lot of contemporary fiction, particularly international fiction. So when I was asked if I was interested in reading 154 books that I get for nothing, it was like all my Christmasses came together.

I have the time and the interest, I’m very interested in international thought, and it’s a great opportunity for me as much as anything else.

Reading 154 books does seem like an arduous task but I am an avid reader anyway and always have been. I read them when I feel like it. I read them during the night and in the morning and I read them in transit and I read them stationary. It wouldn’t be fair to the writers if you approached it as a task that had to be completed. There’s a considerable amount of time between now and the shortlist announcement for me to have read and have a pretty clear idea of what I think about the books.

I have always been very interested in originality of tone and style and a view of the world. That would be my particular preference but it’s a democratic process and there’s a number of people involved. Everyone will get a fair shake no matter what my preferences are.

Follow the link for more information on the International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award.

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