By Brodie Mckenzie, Anna-Maria Poku, Grace Briggs-Jones and Clara Garnier-Barsanti
The Dublin Literary Award has announced the shortlist for its twenty-eighth year and we can’t wait to share our thoughts on the nominees with you!
This award is presented annually for novels written in English or translated into English. The award gives a platform to excellent world literature and is solely sponsored by Dublin City Council and administered by Dublin City Libraries. Nominations are submitted by libraries in major cities all over the world, making the award very unique and exciting.
The winning author of books written in English can expect a cash prize of €100,000, or for translated novels €75,000 goes to the author with the remaining €25,000 being awarded to the translator – how incredible is that? The winner also receives a trophy provided by Dublin City Council.
Percival Everett’s The Trees, which was also shortlisted for the 2022 Booker Prize, is a page-turning, nail-biting crime novel that opens with a string of brutal murders in the town of Money, Mississippi. The murders each compose a small piece of a larger puzzle, because at the scene of each crime is a second dead body: a corpse resembling a young Black man named Emmett Till, who was lynched several decades before. We think The Trees is undoubtedly a novel which shall boast a lasting importance, taking direct aim at police violence and racism – two concepts which, as is becoming increasingly evident, often go hand-in-hand.
Also on the shortlist is Love Novel by Ivana Sajko, translated by Mima Simić. The novel, said to be a brutally honest tale of a marriage in peril following a new child and economic uncertainty, is a searing look at the kind of resentment that forms when a love goes stale. The main characters are not particularly sympathetic – she is a washed-up actress and he is a struggling novelist. Through the lens of a complicated but realistic couple and ultimately, while this is an uncomfortable read, it is a necessary one. The story with its ironic title, is the first of V&Q’s new English language imprint to be translated from a language other than German.
Marzahn, Mon Amour by Katja Oskamp, translated by Jo Heinrich is the next book on the shortlist. Part memoir, part collective history, this clever novel follows a woman in the thick of the “invisible” middle aged years who abandons her failing writing career to retrain as a chiropodist in an East Berlin suburb. At the foot of her chair, she listens to her patients’ stories with empathy and curiosity. Each story stands alone but together, they paint a unique portrait of community. Oskamp’s novel is a timely and poignant reflection on life and our ability to form connections and relate with others even in the most unlikely of circumstances. A must read.
A virtuosic novel of profound power and sensitivity, Kim Thúy’s award winning novel Em, translated by Sheila Fischman, has found itself on the shortlist. A thoroughly personal book, Thúy entrusts readers enough to share not only the pervasive love she feels but also the rage and the horror at what she and so many other children of the Vietnam War had to live through. Through the linked destinies of characters connected by birth, Thúy shows how human lives are shaped by both unspeakable trauma and also the beautiful sacrifices of those who made sure at least some of the children survived. Written in Thúy’s trademark style, this is a must read.
From the acclaimed author Anthony Doerr, Cuckoo Cloud Land is a luminous feat of imagination. This novel traces five unforgettable characters through three distinct time periods, all connected by a prize copy of a mysterious ancient text. Dreamers and misfits, on the cusp of adulthood, struggling to survive and finding resourcefulness and hope in the midst of peril, a single copy of the story of Aethon provides solace, mystery and the most profound human connection to the characters. Doerr’s novel is a must read and holds a deserving place on the shortlist.
The last candidate, longlisted for the International Booker Prize in 2022, brings us into the underworld of Mexico with a piercing narration. Paradais, written by Fernanda Melchor and translated by Sophie Hughes, is a beautiful piece of writing, showing rather than judging the fight between the 1% and those under their service, where the only way out is through the narcos in an environment full of violence. It’s compelling and can be triggering, but books are windows to realities: to anyone at ease, it is a must read.
If you head to the Dublin Literary Award website there are beautiful excerpts of each book on the shortlist, really showing why these novels have made the list. The winner will be announced on Thursday 25 May 2023 and we know it is going to be tough to choose just one! We send a big congratulations to everyone on the shortlist – each and every book deserves to be recognised for what they bring to the literary scene.