22 Jun International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award
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The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is an international literary award for a work of fiction, jointly sponsored by the city of Dublin, Ireland and the company IMPAC. At €100,000 it is one of the richest literary prizes in the world. Nominations are submitted by public libraries worldwide. The prize is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the work has been published in English or English translation. Visit the official site here.
A General Theory of Oblivion – Jose Eduardo Agualusa
On the eve of Angolan independence, Ludo bricks herself into her apartment, where she will remain for the next thirty years. She lives off vegetables and pigeons, burns her furniture and books to stay alive and keeps herself busy by writing her story on the walls of her home. The outside world slowly seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of a man fleeing his pursuers and a note attached to a bird’s foot. Until one day she meets Sabalu, a young boy from the street who climbs up to her terrace.
Family Life – Akhil Sharma
For eight-year-old Ajay and his older brother Birju, life in Dehli in the late 1970s follows a comfortable, predictable routine: bathing on the roof, queuing for milk, playing cricket in the street. Yet, everything changes when their father finds a job in America – a land of carpets and elevators, swimsuits and hot water on tap. Life is exciting for the two brothers as they adjust to prosperity, girls and 24-hour TV, until one hot, sultry day when everything falls apart.
Harvest – Jim Crace
As late summer steals in and the final pearls of barley are gleaned, a village comes under threat. A trio of outsiders – two men and a dangerously magnetic woman – arrives on the woodland borders triggering a series of events that will see Walter Thirsk’s village unmade in just seven days: the harvest blackened by smoke and fear, cruel punishment meted out to the innocent, and allegations of witchcraft. But something even darker is at the heart of Walter’s story, and he will be the only man left to tell it…
The Sound of Things Falling – Juan Gabriel Vasquez
No sooner does he get to know Ricardo Laverde in a seedy billiard hall in Bogota than Antonio Yammara realises that the ex-pilot has a secret. Antonio’s fascination with his new friend’s life grows until the day Ricardo receives a mysterious, unmarked cassette. Shortly afterwards, he is shot dead on a street corner. Yammara’s investigation into what happened leads back to the early 1960s, marijuana smuggling and a time before the cocaine trade trapped Colombia in a living nightmare.
City of Bohane – Kevin Barry
The once-great city of Bohane on the west coast of Ireland is on its knees, infested by vice and split along tribal lines. There are still some posh parts of town, but it is in the slums and backstreets of Smoketown, the tower blocks of the Northside Rises and the eerie bogs of Big Nothin’ that the city really lives. For years, Bohane has been in the cool grip of Logan Hartnett, the dapper godfather of the Hartnett Fancy gang. But there’s trouble in the air. But now they say his old nemesis is back in town; his trusted henchmen are getting ambitious; and there’s trouble in the air…
Even the Dogs – Jon McGregor
On a cold, quiet day between Christmas and the New Year, a man’s body is found in an abandoned apartment. His friends look on, but they’re dead, too. Their bodies found in squats and sheds and alleyways across the city. Victims of a bad batch of heroin, they’re in the shadows, a chorus keeping vigil as the hours pass, paying their own particular homage as their friend’s body is taken away, examined, investigated, and cremated. All of their stories are laid out piece by broken piece through a series of fractured narratives. We meet Robert, the deceased, the only alcoholic in a sprawling group of junkies; Danny, just back from uncomfortable holidays with family, who discovers the body and futiley searches for his other friends to share the news of Robert’s death; Laura, Robert’s daughter, who stumbles into the junky’s life when she moves in with her father after years apart; Heather, who has her own place for the first time since she was a teenager; Mike, the Falklands War vet; and all the others. Theirs are stories of lives fallen through the cracks, hopes flaring and dying, love overwhelmed by a stronger need, and the havoc wrought by drugs, distress, and the disregard of the wider world. These invisible people live in a parallel reality, out of reach of basic creature comforts, like food and shelter. In their sudden deaths, it becomes clear, they are treated with more respect than they ever were in their short lives. Intense, exhilarating, and shot through with hope and fury, Even the Dogs is an intimate exploration of life at the edges of society–littered with love, loss, despair, and a half-glimpse of redemption.
Let the Great World Spin – Colum McCann
It’s New York, August 1974: a man is walking in the sky. Between the newly built Twin Towers, the man twirls through the air. Far below, the lives of complete strangers spin towards each other: Corrigan, a radical Irish monk working in the Bronx; Claire, a delicate Upper East Side housewife reeling from the death of her son; Lara, a drug-addled young artist; Gloria, solid and proud despite decades of hardship; Tillie, a hooker who used to dream of a better life; and Jazzlyn, her beautiful daughter raised on promises that reach beyond the skyline of New York. In the shadow of one reckless and beautiful act, these disparate lives will collide, and be transformed for ever.
The Twin – Gerbrand Bakker
When his twin brother dies in a car accident, Helmer is obliged to return to the small family farm. He resigns himself to taking over his brother’s role and spending the rest of his days ‘with his head under a cow’. After his old, worn-out father has been transferred upstairs, Helmer sets about furnishing the rest of the house according to his own minimal preferences. ‘A double bed and a duvet’, advises Ada, who lives next door, with a sly look. Then Riet appears, the woman once engaged to marry his twin. Could Riet and her son live with him for a while, on the farm?”The Twin” is an ode to the platteland, the flat and bleak Dutch countryside with its ditches and its cows and its endless grey skies. Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, as seen through the eyes of a farmer, “The Twin” is, in the end, about the possibility or impossibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life which has resisted modernity, is culturally apart, and yet riven with a kind of romantic longing.
De Niro’s Game – Rawi Hage
De Niro’s Game is a breathtaking, timely and moving novel about two young men coming of age in war-torn Beirut. While Bassam becomes obsessed with leaving Beirut, George amasses power in the militia-ruled underworld, and lives a life of violence and crime for profit. Their friendship is tested and inevitably their paths collide, explosively and tragically.
Out Stealing Horses – Per Petterson
In 1948, when he is fifteen, Trond spends a summer in the country with his father. The events – the accidental death of a child, his best friend’s feelings of guilt and eventual disappearance, his father’s decision to leave the family for another woman – will change his life forever. An early morning adventure out stealing horses leaves Trond bruised and puzzled by his friend Jon’s sudden breakdown. The tragedy which lies behind this scene becomes the catalyst for the two boys’ families gradually to fall apart. As a 67-year-old man, and following the death of his wife, Trond has moved to an isolated part of Norway to live in solitude. But a chance encounter with a character from the fateful summer of 1948 brings the painful memories of that year flooding back, and will leave Trond even more convinced of his decision to end his days alone.
The Master – Colm Toibin
In January 1895 Henry James anticipates the opening of his first play, Guy Domville, in London. The production fails, and he returns, chastened and humiliated, to his writing desk. The result is a string of masterpieces, but they are produced at a high personal cost. In The Master Colm Toibin captures the exquisite anguish of a man who circulated in the grand parlours and palazzos of Europe, who was astonishingly vibrant and alive in his art, and yet whose attempts at intimacy inevitably failed him and those he tried to love. It is a powerful account of the hazards of putting the life of the mind before affairs of the heart.
The Known World – Edward P. Jones
Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, becomes proprietor of his own plantation — as well as his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend household, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave ‘speculators’ sell free black people into slavery, and rumours of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years. An ambitious, luminously written novel that ranges from the past to the present, The Known World seamlessly weaves together the lives of the freed and the enslaved — and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multi-dimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
This Blinding Absence of Light – Tahar Ben Jelloun
Tahar Ben Jelloun traces the experiences of Salim who, in 1971, took part in a failed coup attempt to oust King Hassan II of Morocco. With sixty others Salim was incarcerated in a secret prison complex in the Moroccan desert: he was to remain there for nearly twenty years. In starkly eloquent, beautiful prose, Ben Jelloun relates the prisoners’ experiences as they struggle to survive. The son of a witty, feckless courtier who disowns him, Salim tells stories to keep sane from the suras of his beloved Koran to the plot of A Streetcar Named Desire. Even in the darkest, most terrible conditions, sympathy, insight, the human quest for meaning and understanding, never desert Salim. The resulting novel is a wrenching yet exquisite celebration of the human spirit and its determination to survive.
My Name is Red – Orhan Pamuk
The Sultan secretly commissions a great book: a celebration of his life and the Ottoman Empire, to be illuminated by the best artists of the day – in the European manner. In Istanbul at a time of violent fundamentalism, however, this is a dangerous proposition. Even the illustrious circle of artists are not allowed to know for whom they are working. But when one of the miniaturists is murdered, their Master has to seek outside help. Did the dead painter fall victim to professional rivalry, romantic jealousy or religious terror? With the Sultan demanding an answer within three days, perhaps the clue lies somewhere in the half-finished pictures…
Atomised – Michel Houellebecq
Half-brothers Michel and Bruno have a mother in common but little else. Michel is a molecular biologist, a thinker and idealist, a man with no erotic life to speak of and little in the way of human society. Bruno, by contrast, is a libertine, though more in theory than in practice, his endless lust is all too rarely reciprocated. Both are symptomatic members of our atomised society, where religion has given way to shallow ‘new age’ philosophies and love to meaningless sexual connections. Atomised (Les Particules elementaires) tells the stories of the two brothers, but the real subject of the novel is in its dismantling of contemporary society and its assumptions, in its political incorrectness, and its caustic and penetrating asides on everything from anthropology to the problem pages of girls’ magazines. A dissection of modern lives and loves. By turns funny, acid, infuriating, didactic, touching and visceral.
No Great Mischief – Alistair MacLeod
In 1779, driven out of his home, Calum McDonald set sail from the Scottish highlands with his extensive family. After a long, terrible journey, Calum settles his family in “the land of the trees” until they become a separate Nova Scotian clan, with its own identity and history.
Wide Open – Nicola Barker
Wide Open is set on the strange Isle Of Sheppey, which pokes out into into the estuary of the River Thames. On this forgotten misty island there is a nudist beach, a nature reserve, a wild boar farm and not much else. The landscape is bare, but the characters are brimming with life. There’s Luke, who specialises in dot-to-dot pornography, and lippy Lily, just 17 and full of outrageous anger. They are joined by Jim and the 8-year-old, Nathan, as well as the mysterious figure of Ronnie, who though plain has dark, telling eyes. Each one is drifting in turbulent, emotional currents, fighting the rip tide of a past, bleak with secrets and fear. Years later adult Nathan works in a Lost Property department, an irony that is almost brutal in its compassion. A novel about stripping off layers of prejudice and lies, about the possibility of redemption, and laying bare the truth. It is also about coming to terms with the past, and about the fantasies people construct in order to protect their fragile inner selves.
The Land of Green Plums – Herta Müller
Set in Romania at the height of Ceausescu’s reign of terror, “The Land of Green Plums” tells the story of a group of young students, each of whom has left the impoverished provinces in search of better prospects in the city. It is a profound illustration of a totalitarian state which comes to inhabit every aspect of life; to the extent that everyone, event the strongest, must either bend to the oppressors, or resist them and perish.
A Heart So White – Javier Marías
Juan knows little about his widowed father Ranz, a man with a troubled past; if he has been told no lies, that is because he has asked no questions. All he does know is that before marrying Juan’s mother, Ranz was married to her elder sister and she had committed suicide. The unspoken dialogue between father and son, however, is to become a spelling out of the horrifying truth once Juan has been married for a year to Luisa, and the bride turns discreet confessor to the burdened old man. What gradually emerges into the cold light of day is a repetition of scenes already witnessed by Juan in the course of his travels – of a married man blackmailed by his mistress in a Havana hotel, of a woman in New York pursuing a sequence of shabby lovers through the lonely-hearts columns. With remarkable skill and delicacy Javier Marias builds up his colours to produce a startling picture of two generations, two marriages, and of the secret commerce between spouses that rests on the gossamer-thin threads of an unspoken accord.