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  • irishtimes.com - Posted: April 2, 2009 @ 6:24 pm

    Impac Award (unimaginative post title)

    Fiona McCann

    Another day, another shortlist, and this time it’s for the Impac Award. The eight finalists are now tantalisingly close to a cool €100,000, which wouldn’t go astray in these difficult times. Now, the appearance of Mohsin Hamid’s The Reluctant Fundamentalist or Junot Diaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao on the list might make it seem a little after the fact, but only because the Impac has a particularly lengthy lead-in time (If I understand the rules correctly, in order to qualify for the 2009 awards novels had to be published either in English between January 1 and December 31 2007, or first published in an English translation between those dates). Books are nominated for the award by libraries all over the world, with a panel of judges winnowing it down to the shortlist, and then choosing a winner. So let’s see then: you could get whingey about the lack of female authors or Irish authors, or you could accentuate the positive for once, and point up the presence of a Dominican-American, a Pakistani-British, a French, a Norwegian and three American writers. Which sounds like something you could get your teeth into. Except for David Leavitt – spare me.

    • Paul says:

      Junot Diaz’s book will be remembered for a long time – an evocative, resonant and humorous portrayal of a stratum within a national society, much like Roddy Doyle did with Dublin.

    • John Self says:

      Yes, the timings of the IMPAC are always very strange, aren’t they? The Reluctant Fundamentalist and Animal’s People were both shortlisted for the Booker in 2007! And Michael Thomas’s Man Gone Down was published in the US in 2006 but hasn’t been published in the UK or Ireland yet – so even under their own rules, they seem to be all over the place with these.

      The title I’m most interested in is Jean Echenoz’s Ravel, which I’ve heard good things about (and not just that it’s only 190 pages of large type) – sadly it won’t be published here until August so we’ll have to wait and see (it was published in the US in June 07 which is how it qualifies).

      Of the three I’ve read, I really liked Animal’s People. I share a vague disdain for David Leavitt, though I think it might be blind prejudice in my case, as I’ve only (part-) read one of his books, The Body of Jonah Boyd. I wouldn’t rule out giving The Indian Clerk a crack.

    • Kynos says:

      I think I’ll read them all. Thanks for the pointer.

    • Fiona says:

      Paul: I’ve heard mixed views on this one, but I’ll take yours on board . . . sounds like it’s worth a read.

      John Self: Yeah, I should be more circumspect about David Leavitt – I haven’t read him in years, and remember too little to be so scathing. I have some serious reading to do to have any opinions on the rest!

      Kynos: Let me know how you get on!

    • John Self says:

      I think Paul is right – I myself had mixed views on Oscar Wao, but it’s been so widely feted and won such prestigious prizes that it certainly will be around for a long time. In fact it’s one of those books which I’ve come to like more in retrospect than I did while reading it.

      PS – You need a ‘recent comments’ widget, Fiona, otherwise comments on older posts like this one get lost!

    • Fiona says:

      John: You’re right – I’ll get on to those in the know about that widget.

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