The award, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council, is the world’s most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English, with the winner receiving €100,000. If the book has been translated, the author receives €75,000 and the translator €25,000.
Nominations for the prize are chosen by librarians and readers from a network of libraries around the world. A total of 49 titles were nominated by libraries from 30 countries. The winner will be announced by Dublin’s Lord Mayor Hazel Chu on 20 May as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin. The shortlist and winner are chosen by the judging panel, consisting of Jan Carson, David James Karashima, Rita Sakr, Martín Veiga, and Enda Wyley, with Chris Morash acting as non-voting chairperson.
This year’s long eligibility period (open to books released from January 2019 to June 2020) means all but one of these titles have already won major prizes (the Booker, the Pulitzer, the Rathbones Folio Prize, the Prix du Meilleur Livre Étranger) or been shortlisted (the International Booker).
The shortlisted titles are:
Girl, Woman, Other by Bernardine Evaristo
The 2019 Booker Prize winner Evaristo has built on her previous work to create this flexible narrative of 12 women, mostly black, in Britain over the past 100 years. There are cynical middle-aged theatre directors and young optimistic lawyers; mothers and lovers; women who are driven and women who are stuck; and Evaristo manages to define each of the dozen with (almost) equal care and detail while connecting them as part of something bigger than themselves.
Lost Children Archive by Valeria Luiselli
This is the Mexican-American writer’s first novel written in English, and it includes many modernist and postmodern features, from photographs and documents embedded in the text to a single twenty-page sentence. It describes a road trip from New York to Arizona by a family exploring lost children, that is, “children who have lost the right to a childhood” – such as during border migration, and the book goes back through previous migration crises and “the chaos of history repeated”.
Apeirogon by Colum McCann
If Colum McCann win this year’s he would be the first ever double winner of the Dublin Literary Award, after his victory in 2011 with Let the Great World Spin. Apeirogon takes the spirit of McCann’s earlier novels -–inspired by real people: it’s told in 1,001 short sections. And this one takes on the issue of the Israel-Palestine conflict, through the stories of two men on either “side” whose daughters were killed.
Hurricane Season by Fernanda Melchor
The book follows the story of a neighbourhood woman “the Witch” and why she was killed, and the constantly sickening violence by the poor and disadvantaged.
On Earth We’re Briefly Gorgeous by Ocean Vuong
This novel – a letter from Little Dog, a young man sharing some of Vuong’s characteristics, to his mother. Little Dog’s story is one of intersectionality – race, sexuality, gender – ranging in scope from his grandfather’s experience in the Vietnam War to the truth and history of all-American institutions such as Coca-Cola and Tiger Woods. There’s even a love story, with a romantic hero who goes by the unlikely name – on this side of the Atlantic – of Trevor.
The Nickel Boys by Colson Whitehead
The novel opens with the discovery of a burial ground in Florida, at the old Nickel Academy reform school. Then we go back to the source, and the segregated school’s treatment of its black boys.
The centre of the story is Elwood, a boy whose good performance in school is no match for the bad luck that lands him in Nickel. The story loses some of its force after Elwood leaves the school, but there’s an additional tragedy in the “cliff face” he must then climb to get clear of these wrong beginnings – and he may never do it.