Irish writers comprise a quarter of the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Almost

Man Booker Prize logoWell, if anyone was in any doubt about the health of Irish writing, it should be dispelled by the announcement of the Man Booker Prize yesterday morning, in which three of the 13 authors are Irish.

Colm Tóibín is nominated for a third time for The Testament of Mary, his alternative gospel of the life of the mother of Christ.

Colum McCann, previously an IMPAC winner with Let The Great World Spin, is Booker-nominated for the first time for TransAtlantic, the novel which covers 150 years of transatlantic history, covering three journeys back and forth between the USA and Ireland – of an antislavery campaigner in the 1840s, pioneers of flight Alcock and Brown in 1919 and George Mitchell in 1998.

While Booker nods only help to consolidate an already well established international reputation for Tóibín and McCann, the third Irish writer on the list is at the other end of the scale.

Sales of Donal Ryan’s debut, The Spinning Heart, are sure to get another massive boost from this recognition, and it’s fantastic to see the Limerick-based civil servant on the list.

I’m not sure at this point whether Ryan is still actually on the payroll of the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, but if he is, his days there may well be numbered, particularly if he makes the shortlist when it’s announced on September 10th. No doubt his second novel, The Thing About September, will get even more attention now when it hits the shelves later (which should be around about the time the Booker is handed out).

As someone with a keen ear for all things digital, my attention is grabbed by one of the other books on the longlist, namely Richard House’s The Kills, which runs to 1000 pages and has auxiliary audio and video content. The Booker judges, however, will be judging just on the written words, which the digital curmudgeon in me doesn’t have a problem with at all. (This is despite the fact that the multimedia element does hugely appeal to me. I am a blogger of many inconsistencies.)

Another interesting nomination is for Eve Harris. The most striking thing about her novel, The Marrying of Chani Kaufman, is not so much that it’s her debut, or that it’s published by a small independent press, Scottish publisher Sandstone, but that it isn’t even on the shelves as yet. A nomination for an as yet unseen (by the wider public at least) debut novel from a small independent publisher? It must really be very good indeed.

The full Man Booker Prize longlist is available here


3 thoughts on “Irish writers comprise a quarter of the Man Booker Prize shortlist. Almost

    1. Hi Paul,

      Definitely. A part of me rejoices every time an independent publisher is nominated for any major prize. I wasn’t aware of Sandstone before (although they had a book nominated two years ago) but great to see them, Salt, And Other Stories, Peirene Press and others doing something more than struggling along.

      A future with quality independent publishers surviving and prospering (flourishing might be a bit much to ask for yet) is a future I want to be part of. So the message is to buy independent wherever possible – once the product is up to standard, of course.

      Also, I know I have an email from you in my inbox for the past few weeks waiting to be attended to. I haven’t forgotten. I hope Australia and writing are both going well.

      Thanks for the comment.


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