€10,000 Michel Déon Prize for Non-Fiction shortlist revealed

A preview of Saturday’s books pages and round-up of the latest literary news

The shortlist for the 2020 Michel Déon Prize for non-fiction has been revealed. The six books in the runniong for the €10,000 prize, run by the Royal Irish Academy and sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade are:

Constellations by Sinéad Gleeson (Picador Pan MacMillan)
Republic of Shame by Caelainn Hogan (Penguin Randomhouse)
The Maamtrasna Murders: Language, Life and Death in Nineteenth-Century Ireland by Margaret Kelleher (UCD Press)
Minor Monuments by Ian Maleney (Tramp Press)
Twelve Thousand Days, A memoir of love and loss by Éilís Ní Dhuibhne (Blackstaff Press)
The Shoemaker and his Daughter by Conor O'Clery (Penguin Randomhouse)

Prof Michael Cronin, chair of the judging panel, commented on the sheer vitality and range of non-fictional writing in Ireland evident in the quality of the titles on the shortlist.

To reflect the work and interests of the French writer Michel Déon, who made Ireland his home from the 1970s until his death in 2016, the eligible categories were autobiography, biography, cultural studies, history, literary studies, philosophy and travel. Authors of any nationality currently living on the island of Ireland who had published a non-fiction book in the period August 2018 to April 2020 were eligible.


The winner will be announced later in the year. The inaugural winner of the prize was historian Breandán MacSuibhne for his book The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland. Last December, the Académie française awarded the prize to fiction writer Stéphane Hoffmann for Les Belles Ambitieuses.

Saturday's book pages
Saturday's book pages feature Anna Carey's selection of 20 books to devour this summer. Reviews include Suzanne Lynch on This Is What America Looks Like by Ilhan Omar; Mia Levitin on Writers & Lovers by Lily King; Charlie Taylor on Barry J Whyte's The Impossible Dream; John Self on On Chapel Sands: My mother and other missing persons by Laura Cumming; John Cooney on Niall O'Dowd's A New Ireland: How Europe's Most Conservative Country Became Its Most Liberal; Helen Cullen on Rodham by Curtis Sittenfeld; Sarah on Wretchedness by Andrzej Tichý; and Martina Evans on new collections by John McAuliffe, Eiléan Ní Chuilleanáin and Gerry Murphy.

Oisín Fagan shortlisted for comic fiction prize
Nobber, the debut novel by Irish writer Oisín Fagan, has been shortlisted for the Bollinger Everyman Wodehouse Prize, the first and oldest prize for comic fiction now celebrating its 20th anniversary. This year's shortlist includes 2019 prize winner Hannah Rothschild's House of Trelawney; Weather by Jenny Offill; Rules for Visiting by Jessica Francis Kane; Flake by Matthew Dooley, the first graphic novel to be shortlisted for the prize; and 46% Better than Dave by Alastair Puddick.

Judge James Naughtie said: ”Oisin Fagan’s first novel is a brilliant piece of dark comedy. Fagan weaves his tale in such rich and muscular language that he can squeeze humour out of a bleak landscape, and produce a cast of characters that have a hypnotic ability to grip readers and make them laugh even in the darkness that envelops the town of Nobber. This is a novel to savour, to laugh with, and to return to.”

Fagan won the inaugural Penny Dreadful Novella Prize for The Hierophants in 2016. Hostages, his first collection, was also published that year. Nobber was longlisted for the Desmond Elliott Prize.

JG Farrell Fiction Award
Writers residing in Munster are invited to enter the 2020 JG Farrell Fiction Award for the best opening chapter of a novel-in-progress. The prize is a place on the West Cork Literary Festival's online Novel with Paul McVeigh workshop. This workshop was originally due to take place as part of the West Cork Literary Festival in Bantry this July. However, the festival has been cancelled due to Covid-19 and so plans are under way to move the workshop online.

Applicants should submit the first chapter of their novel (max 3,000 words) via email to sara@westcorkmusic.ie with JG Farrell Award in the subject line by the extended deadline of June 5th. The chapter must be attached as a separate document and the writer's name and address must be included in the main body of the email. Only one entry per person and late entries will not be accepted. Details at westcorkliteraryfestival.ie

Jenny Offill in conversation with Sinéad Gleeson
Friends of the Earth is hosting a webinar for World Environment Day with Sinéad Gleeson in conversation with Jenny Offill about her latest novel, Weather. Details about the event on Friday, June 5th are here.