Kevin Barry wins Impac literary award

City of Bohane, thriller set in a futuristic west of Ireland, takes €100,000 prize

Kevin Barry has won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, one of the world’s richest literary prizes, for his novel City of Bohane. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Kevin Barry has won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, one of the world’s richest literary prizes, for his novel City of Bohane. Photograph: Cyril Byrne/The Irish Times

Fri, Jun 7, 2013, 07:25

Kevin Barry has won the International Impac Dublin Literary Award, one of the world’s richest literary prizes, for his novel City of Bohane. The winner of the €100,000 prize was announced tonight at a ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House.

“It’s a fantastic thrill for me,” said Barry. “It’s a big money prize, and it’s always useful for a poor writer to be put in the vicinity of stacks of cash. It’s an unpredictable life and it’s great to be able to buy time to sit in my little room and invent these demented little words.”

This will be the last year when the “Impac” award will be given out. The company has withdrawn as the title sponsor, and the organisation is now looking for a sponsor for next year’s € 100,000 prize.

Barry was in fine company on the shortlist. Among those nominated were previous winners Michel Houellebecq, nominated for The Map and the Territory, and Andrew Miller, for Pure. But Barry’s strongest competition came from Kjersti A Skomsvold’s The Faster I Walk , The Smaller I Am.

“There were amazing writers on the shortlist, some of them I’ve being reading and admiring for years, such as Houellebecq and Murakamai,” said Barry. “It’s a real honour.”

In the end, though, City of Bohane’s inventive, intricate language proved irresistible to the judges.

The city of the title is a steampunked metropolis in the future west of Ireland whose territories are carved up along tribal lines. Has Barry any plans to return to Bohane? “Writing like that involved building a little city and when you do that, it feels like real estate. It’s certainly not the next book or even the one after that but I wouldn’t be surprised if I’m tempted to go out and visit the mean streets again.”

For now, though, “There’s a new novel, and I’m saying nothing about it because I’m superstitious like that. And there’s a film script called The Gee Gees that I’m working on for Element Pictures.”

The Impac award was established in 1996. Books are nominated by public libraries around the world. Barry was the only Irish author on this year’s shortlist, and is the third Irish writer to win the Impac, after Colum McCann in 2011 and Colm Tóibín in 2006. The judging panel included writers Patrick McCabe and Clive Sinclair.

As for to night’s ceremony, Barry said: “It’s always nice to get out of the house as a writer, and it’s even nicer when the sun is shining and they’re aiming pots of money at you.” It’s a good day to be king of the mean streets of Bohane.

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