Dublin Literary Award 2024: Solenoid, by Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu, wins €100,000 prize

Solenoid, published by Deep Vellum, is the first book translated from Romanian to win the award

Dublin Literary Award 2024: Solenoid author Mircea Cărtărescu. Photograph: Isabel Infantes/Europa Press via Getty

Solenoid, by the Romanian author Mircea Cărtărescu, has won the €100,000 Dublin Literary Award for 2024. The prize, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council, is the world’s largest for a single novel published in English. Cărtărescu will receive €75,000, with Seán Cotter, his translator, receiving €25,000. Solenoid is the 12th novel in translation to win the prize, for which public libraries around the world submit nominations.

The book, which Cărtărescu based on his role as a secondary-school teacher, is grounded in the realities of life in communist Romania in the late 1970s and early 1980s, including long lines for groceries, the absurdities of the education system and the misery of family life. After beginning with the mundane details of a diarist’s life, it quickly spirals into a philosophical account of life, history, philosophy and mathematics.

“By turns wildly inventive, philosophical and lyrical, with passages of great beauty, Solenoid is the work of a major European writer who is still relatively little known to English-language readers,” the judging panel said. “Seán Cotter’s translation of the novel sets out to change that situation, capturing the lyrical precision of the original, thereby opening up Cărtărescu’s work to an entirely new readership.”

Solenoid’s win was announced as part of International Literature Festival Dublin.


Cărtărescu, who has published more than 25 books and whose work has been translated in 23 languages, said the award is one of his most significant literary achievements. “It shows an increase in my image as a writer in the English-speaking world after the publication of Solenoid, my breakthrough novel. I am grateful to the jury who chose my book from so many other wonderful ones,” Cărtărescu said.

Cotter, a professor at the University of Texas at Dallas, who has translated 11 books, commented: “I am honoured to be recognised with as great an author as Mircea, from as great a literature as the Romanian, and I hold in my heart the community of Romanian translators, all those who translate the world’s smaller literatures, all those who translate.”

The judging panel was chaired by Prof Chris Morash of Trinity College Dublin. His fellow judges were Ingunn Snædal, Daniel Medin, Lucy Collins, Anton Hur and Irenosen Okojie.

Dublin Literary Award 2024: John Self reviews the six shortlisted books Opens in new window ]

In his Irish Times review of Solenoid, John Self described it as an “unsummarisable monster of a book” that “treads a fine balance between aweing the reader and overwhelming them. Anyone with an appetite for Nobel Prize-winning fare – a world internal, hypnotic and very European, where plot is a bourgeois extravagance – will love it”.

The novel, which is published by Deep Vellum, beat five other shortlisted titles, including Old God’s Time by Sebastian Barry and Haven by Emma Donoghue. It was nominated by “Octavian Goga” Cluj County Library, in Romania. The only translated novel on this year’s shortlist, Solenoid is the first to be translated from Romanian to win the award since its inception, 29 years ago.

Copies are available to borrow from Dublin libraries and from public libraries throughout Ireland, as well as in ebook format on their BorrowBox service.

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O’Donoghue

Ellen O'Donoghue is an Irish Times journalist