By Caitlin Evans, Paridhi Badgotri and Thomas Caldow
In its twenty-seventh year, the Dublin Literary Award has perfected the art of literary judgement and commendation by shortlisting just six outstanding novels from a longlist of seventy-nine nominees. The award is presented annually and, with its unique nomination process and international aims, has gained respect and traction in recent years. This year the competition is tense as the shortlist comprises six powerful, literary and diverse titles.
Run by Dublin City Council, administered by Dublin City Libraries and patron'ed by the Lord Mayor of Dublin, you would think this award an intensely local affair. The opposite is instead true, as this award prides itself on finding the greatest international literature – provided the literature is written or translated into English. Even the nomination process is international; books are nominated by a selection of public libraries from multiple cities across the globe. The invited libraries deliberate over their region’s finest novels and put forward those they deem to have the highest literary merit.
These titles are then handed to a panel of international judges, who thoughtfully whittle down a shortlist, then select an overall winner. The winner of the Dublin Literary Award receives €100,000, which can be split between author and translator in cases where the work is translated. The winner of the 2022 pool is due to be announced on 19 May, and the announcement will serve as part of the opening programme of the International Literature Festival Dublin (ILFDublin).
Remote Sympathy by Catherine Chidgey, Europa Editions
Nominator: Auckland Libraries and Dunedin Public Libraries, New Zealand
Chidgey’s haunting and brutal novel has received several plaudits already, making it onto the Women’s Prize for Literature longlist as well as this shortlist. Telling the tale of the wife of a concentration camp officer, Remote Sympathy concerns itself with what happens when we make the choice to look away and forget those around us. This beautiful and heartbreakingly human story is as relevant today as during its historic setting.
At Night All Blood is Black by David Diop, translated by Anna Moschovakis, Pushkin Press
Nominator: Bibliothèque de Reims, France
Fresh from its triumph at the International Booker Prize awards, Diop’s WWI epic continues to garner praise from all quarters. Following two Senegalese soldiers as they fight to survive amidst the horrors of the Great War, the novel explores the often ignored history of colonised people’s involvement in the conflict. All Blood is Black also covers new ground in its approach to translation; Diop’s text blends Wolof speech rhythms and syntax with a French vocabulary to create a narrative voice rich with history and identity.
The Death of Vivek Oji by Akwaeke Emezi, Faber & Faber
Nominator: Helsinki City Library, Finland
In contrast with the novel’s title, Emezi’s story is in fact a study of the life of the titular Vivek Oji – from his birth through to the inevitable outcome. A novel about youth, family and self-identity, Emezi’s voice breathes life into a cast of characters who feel real and utterly human. Having already made the shortlist of literary awards including the Dylan Thomas Prize and the Orwell Prize for Political Fiction, this book is very much in contention to take home the top prize this year.
The Art of Falling by Danielle McLaughlin, John Murray
Nominator: Cork City Libraries, Ireland
The Art of Falling revolves around the professional and personal life connections of the curator protagonist, Nessa McCormack, as two outsiders in the exhibition unravel the past that Nessa had left behind. The outsider woman threatens to reveal Nessa’s secrets by claiming to be the true sculptor of Robert Locke’s most prestigious work, The Chalk Sculpture. It investigates the themes of marriage, intimacy and estrangement, and centres around the role of secrets and truth in relationships.
Noopiming: The Cure for White Ladies by Leanne Betasamosake Simpson, House of Anansi
Nominator: Ottawa Public Library, Canada
Simpson’s book is a challenge to the perpetual colonial myths of Canada. The novel offers a surprising insight on how the indigenous people of Canada have tried to keep their traditions alive in the wake of settler colonisation. Each character in the novel represents a part of the human body, and these seven characters engage in constant conversation with each other, leading to the formation of protagonist Mashkawaji’s different selves. The book is a combination of songs, poetry and prose related to the traditions of indigenous people of Canada.
The Art of Losing by Alice Zeniter, translated by Frank Wynne, Picador
Nominator: Bibliothèque publique d’information, France
In the wake of the Algerian war of independence, The Art of Losing follows the story of Ali and his family fleeing Algeria. Zenter presents the effects of postcolonial violence on three generations in this family saga, covering themes of immigration while exploring the characters’ suppression of the past in order to make a bright future. Focusing on the exploration of national and individual identity, The Art of Losing becomes a tale of mastering a lost identity and nationhood after the horrors of colonisation.