Soula Emmanuel wins SoA award

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Soula Emmanuel

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In The Irish Times this Saturday, Joseph O’Neill tells Keith Duggan about his new novel, Godwin, his Cork roots and his fear at the prospect of Donald Trump returning to the White House. Anna Carey recommends 21 summer reads and there is a Q&A with poet Alvy Carragher.

Reviews are Ian Hughes on Inheritance: The Evolutionary Origins of the Modern World by Harvey Whitehouse and Why War? By Richard Overy; Donald Clarke on Amnesiac by Neil Jordan; Rónán Hession on the best new translations; Oliver Farry on Massacre in the CloudsAn American Atrocity and the Erasure of History by Kim A Wagner; Ruby Eastwood on Selected Kafka Stories and the Kafkaesque anthology, A Cage Went in Search of a Bird; Lucy Sweeney Byrne on Scaffolding by Lauren Elkin; Laura Slattery on The Racket: On Tour with Tennis’s Golden Generation – and the other 99% by Conor Niland; John Boyne on Silverback by Phil Harrison; and Sarah Gilmartin on Parade by Rachel Cusk.

This weekend’s Irish Times Eason offer is A Thread of Violence by Mark O’Connell, just €5.99, a €5 saving.

Eason offer

Soula Emmanuel, a trans writer who was born in Dublin to an Irish mother and a Greek father, has won the Gordon Bowker Volcano Prize for her debut novel, Wild Geese, published last month by Footnote Press.


The prize, awarded to a UK or Irish writer, or one resident in those countries, is for a novel focusing on the experience of travel away from home. In memory of Malcolm Lowry and endowed by Gordon Bowker, his biographer, and Ramdei Bowker, it was judged by Aamer Hussein, Yara Rodrigues Fowler and Kerry Young.

The prize is one of several Society of Authors Awards to be celebrated at a ceremony at Southwark Cathedral tonight. The awards are for authors at all stages of their careers, for books of poetry, fiction and non-fiction, across a variety of genres.

SoA management committee chair Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin will host the awards, with a keynote speech from bestselling author Kate Mosse. For those viewing from home, the awards will be live-streamed from 7pm.

Volcano Prize judge Yara Rodrigues Fowler said: “Wild Geese starts when Phoebe, a trans Irish woman living in Denmark receives a surprise visit from her kooky ex. Every sentence is a joy. Emmanuel’s prose is second to none – playful, erudite and completely unexpected. Wild Geese makes a powerful, moving case for the pursuit of newness in the world and in life. Not only does Emmanuel convincingly transport the reader to Copenhagen, she reveals to us the possibility at the heart of travel to a new place: that it might show us a different way of living.”

Emmanuel attended university in Ireland and Sweden, graduating with a master’s in demography which she likes to think inspired her interest in society’s outliers. She has written for IMAGE magazine, Rogue Collective and the Project Arts Centre, and has had fiction published by The Liminal Review. She was longlisted for Penguin’s WriteNow programme in 2020, took part in the Stinging Fly fiction summer school in 2021 and was a participant in the Madeleine Milburn Literary Agency’s mentorship programme for 2021-22. She lives on Ireland’s east coast.

Cecile Pin, who grew up in Paris and New York City, and is now based in London, was runner up for her debut novel Wandering Souls, which was longlisted for the Women’s Prize for fiction, the Prix Femina Etranger, and shortlisted for the Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize.

Leontia Flynn is one of six poets to win a £1,400 Cholmondeley Award are awarded for contributions to poetry, along with Fiona Benson, Gerry Cambridge, Julia Copus, Helen Ivory and Roger Robinson.

Flynn’s fifth collection of poetry, Taking Liberties, was published with Jonathan Cape in 2023. Her previous collections have won the Forward prize for best First Collection, the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, the Lawrence O’Shaughnessy award for Irish poetry, The Irish Times Poetry Prize, and twice been shortlisted for the T.S. Eliot prize. She was made a fellow of the Royal Society of Literature in 2022 and is a Professor at the Seamus Heaney Centre, Queen’s University Belfast.

Wenyan Lu won the McKitterick Prize for The Funeral Cryer. It is awarded for a first novel by a writer over 40 and was judged by Anietie Isong, Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott, Rebecca Foster, Gonzalo C. Garcia and Rónán Hession.

Lu is a novelist from Shanghai. She is also a literary translator, and teaches creative writing. Judge Rónán Hession said: “Wenyan Lu has created an unforgettable debut, brimming with personality and written with a sense of consummate ease. The Funeral Cryer is such a funny, warm and original book. An absolute gem of a novel.”

This year’s Paul Torday Memorial Prize winner, Fire Rush, the debut novel from Jacqueline Crooks, was also shortlisted for the McKitterick Prize – an ‘ambitious novel about love and the power of music’ chronicling the lives of characters from the Windrush generation in 1970s Britain. Tom Crewe’s Betty Trask Prize-winning debut The New Life (Chatto & Windus) also re-examines an era of British life, looking at late nineteenth century London through the lens of historical debates about sexual mores. Judge Michael Donkor described it as ‘exquisitely crafted, multifaceted, luminous’.

The 2023 Forward Prize-winning collection Bad Diaspora Poems (Jonathan Cape, Vintage/Penguin Random House) by Momtaza Mehri won a Somerset Maugham Award, a collection which ‘works lightly and fiercely across registers, tones and possibilities’, for which our judges shared a ‘deep appreciation’. The manuscript for Bad Diaspora Poems also won an Eric Gregory Award last year.

Kate Mosse said: “All literary awards celebrate outstanding, exceptional, imaginative, ground-breaking work. What I love about the SoA Awards is that they honour many authors, working in a whole range of disciplines and at different stages in their writing careers. Now, more than ever, books matter – they offer us the chance to stand in other people’s shoes, to hear about lives other than our own, they encourage empathy and conversation. I know that when we gather together on 20th June, we will do so in the spirit of every voice mattering, every story being something to celebrate.”

Benjamin Zephaniah and illustrator Nila Aye won the Queen’s Knickers Award for an outstanding children’s original illustrated book for ages 0-7 for People Need People, described by judge Cerrie Burnell as “moving, humorous and lovely all at once”.


Glorious Exploits by Irish author Ferdia Lennon has been shortlisted for the third annual Waterstones Debut Fiction Prize, voted for by Waterstones booksellers.

Lennon subverts all expectations with his incomparable debut novel, set in Sicily in 412 BC. Following two locals and a group of captured Athenian soldiers as they stage one of Euripides’ greatest tragedies, this riotously funny and moving novel is a nod to the recent historical retelling trend whilst offering something surprising and new at every turn. Claire from Waterstones Farnham praised Glorious Exploits as “utterly original” and “ thoroughly modern despite being rooted in ancient history”, and Issy from Waterstones Edinburgh West End was “hooked throughout”, describing the novel as “hilarious, unique and wholly unpredictable”, whilst Mark from Waterstones Birmingham called it “a totally original joy of a book”.

Also shortlisted are Martyr! by Kaveh Akbar; The Ministry of Time by Kaliane Bradley; The Silence In Between by Josie Ferguson; Mongrel by Hanako Footman; and Greta & Valdin by Rebecca K Reilly.

Lennon said: “It’s simply wonderful. I feel the track record this prize has already established in terms of the calibre of its previous years’ shortlists means that it is truly an honour to be nominated. The fact that the books are selected by Waterstones booksellers makes it extra special as, personally, I know how important the recommendations of passionate booksellers have been in helping me discover writers and books that I love.”

Lennon was born in Dublin to an Irish mother and Libyan father. He holds a BA in history and classics from University College Dublin and an MA in prose fiction from the University of East Anglia. His short stories have appeared in The Irish Times and the Stinging Fly. In 2019 and 2021, he received a Literature Bursary Award from the Arts Council of Ireland. After spending many years in Paris, he now lives in Norwich with his wife and son.

The winner will be announced on July 25th and will receive a prize of £5,000 and the backing of all Waterstones shops.


The West Cork History Festival, established in 2017, has gained a reputation for original programming on a broad range of historical topics. The 2024 festival, held on the beautiful Inish Beg near Baltimore, will explore twin themes of Aftermaths and the Diaspora.

Margaret MacMillan and Roy Foster will be in conversation on the lessons of their lives as historians for this “end of times” moment. The weekend that follows will feature discussions ranging from the Irish, American, and Russian civil wars, to the legacies of the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

Historians from around Ireland will be joined by international colleagues, as well as other writers, commentators, and the Director of the National Gallery, Caroline Campbell. Alongside the legal history of responses to terror, the lessons from financial crises, and the experiences of the Irish diaspora, Thomas Keneally and Myles Dungan will discuss the flawed hero John Mitchel. Other topics include three sides of the 1798 rising, the Irish in the British Army, and the history of Cork’s Jewish community. There is even space for Suleyman the Magnificent.

All of this will be accompanied as ever by the excellent hospitality that only West Cork can offer. More information is here - West Cork History Festival.


The Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s University Belfast has opened a new landmark building that honours the legacy of the poet and looks to the future of poetry and creative writing on the island of Ireland.

The building was officially opened by his widow Marie Heaney and President and Vice-Chancellor of Queen’s, Prof Ian Greer, on Tuesday.

Also in attendance were members of the Heaney family, invited guests including the First and Deputy First Ministers, Michelle O’Neill and Emma Little-Pengelly; Lord Mayor of Belfast, Councillor Micky Murray; Ciaran Hinds; and Geraldine Hughes.

Prof Greer said: “This centre is more than just a building; it is a tribute to one of Ireland’s greatest poets, Seamus Heaney, and it will be a cornerstone of the university. The new centre will be a landmark on the island of Ireland that will look to the future, providing an inspiring environment for our students, staff, writers, and the wider community to engage in the study and creation of writing.

“The university has contributed hugely to the literary life of Belfast and further afield with many notable alumni such as Paul Muldoon, Medbh McGuckian, Ciaran Carson, and Lisa McGee to name but a few. This new space will harness the development of many more creative talents in the years to come.”

Located at the listed historic building, 38-40 University Road and 3 Mount Charles, just a short walk from the main Lanyon building at the heart of the Queen’s campus, the new centre boasts a large venue space, scriptorium (a writing area), offices and creative spaces for students and staff. There is also a public exhibition area which will display the Seamus Heaney archive held by the iniversity for the first time.

Director of the Seamus Heaney Centre at Queen’s, Prof Glenn Patterson said: “This beautiful new building is a recognition of how the Heaney Centre has developed in the 20 years since it was opened by Seamus Heaney himself under the directorship of the late Ciaran Carson. The ethos – the heart – remains the same, but the new premises offer exciting opportunities for study, for research and for even greater community engagement.”

Catherine Heaney, daughter of Seamus, said: “The Seamus Heaney Centre is really important to me and my family because it’s about education. So many people know my father as a poet, and Queen’s is where he started writing poetry, but also it’s where he studied himself and where he started his career as a lecturer and an educator. As far as we’re concerned, it plays a really important part in his legacy.”


Dublin-based author Joanna Walsh has turned down a prestigious German cultural award in protest at the decision by the awarding body’s president (in his role as rector of Cologne University) to withdraw a visiting professorship from the philosopher, Nancy Fraser (herself Jewish), over a letter she signed requesting an academic boycott of Israel under current circumstances. Her letter is reproduced below.

Dear Silvia Fehrmann and Mathias Zeiske,

Firstly I would like to thank you for your very generous offer of a DAAD Fellowship, which must be the greatest honour of my writing life. Regretfully, and after much consideration, I cannot accept. Exceptional circumstances guide my decision. Ethical questions are more usually dealt with by artists in their work, but here they require a direct response.

President of the DAAD, Professor Joybrato Mukherjee’s withdrawal, as Rector of the University of Cologne, of Professor Nancy Fraser’s Albertus Magnus Professorship – after she signed an open letter calling for an academic boycott of Israel in a situation already described as ‘putative genocide’ by the International Court of Justice – threatens German and European free speech. Academic boycotts have a history as peaceful responses to State-sponsored violence (as in South Africa in the 1980s), and they target state institutions not, as in Cologne University’s treatment of Fraser, the individual.

Like Professor Fraser, who is herself Jewish, I have signed a number of letters calling for action against Israeli genocide, including one from Irish academics asking for ties with Israeli institutions to be suspended, and I have regularly taken part in large-scale peaceful demonstrations calling for an immediate ceasefire, which take place almost weekly on the streets of Dublin.

Eva Giannakopoulou, Jonas Staal and China Miéville’s withdrawal from the 2024 DAAD program only lends weight to my decision. Solidarity on this issue is strong in Ireland, especially among artists and writers, and I will not break that solidarity. The Irish government’s position on Gaza is fragile but nevertheless rare among European countries, and I would rather act to support than undermine it.

I make this decision with deep regret, and with much appreciation for your personal commitment to encouraging voices that “challenge German debates,” but “in order for violence to stop,” to quote the letter Fraser signed, “the conditions that produce violence must stop”. No honour I could receive can stand against the slightest violence to the victims of this conflict, or to the freedom of artists and academics to openly discuss this matter in the EU. Eventually, I hope that the DAAD is able resolve its difficulties and that I will be able to reapply under happier circumstances.

With gratitude and regret, Joanna Walsh


Northerners Not Welcome? is a joint ARINS / Common Ground panel discussion chaired by Mark Hennessy, Britain and Ireland editor at The Irish Times. The discussion will explore the experiences of Northerners working and living south of the border. Taking part are Malachai O’Hara, leader of the Green Party Northern Ireland and a Senator in the Oireachtas; Karyn Harty, partner at Dentons Ireland; and Una O’Neill, a partner at Mercer’s Medical Centre.

The event will take place at 12.30pm on July 11th in the Royal Irish Academy, 19 Dawson Street, (beside the Mansion House). The event is free of charge but all those wishing to attend must register.


Author and former diplomat, Eamon Delaney, is giving some popular new walking tours in Dublin, exploring some fascinating connections to artists, political figures and international events. A particular focus is James Joyce, with a tour of the Phibsborough and Eccles Street where there are so many associations, most famously with Joyce’s great novel Ulysses.

Another tour is of the area is Westland Row, Lincoln Place and the north side of Merrion Square, which is deeply connected to three big writers – Joyce, Samuel Beckett and Oscar Wilde. The tour will explore these connections, both in their early lives and their works, with readings at various locations.

Locations include Sweny’s Chemist on Westland Row and Holles Street hospital, from the Oxen and the Sun chapter of Ulysses as well as Oscar Wilde’s two homes and the old Finns Hotel where Joyce first encountered Nora Barnacle, the love of his life. Other locations include the office of Samuel Beckett’s father where young Sam wrote his first novel and the family home of Mary Swanzy, the modernist and cubist painter ahead of her time.

Full details, including booking, here.


Irish writer Cónal Creedon will be receive the world Cultural Council Award for Arts 2024 at a ceremony at McGill Universityin Montreal this October and will also be honoured at the Irish Books, Arts and Music Awards at the American Irish Heritage Centre in Chicago next October. Previous winners of the iBAM Award for Literature include Frank McCourt, Marian Keyes, John B Keane, Maeve Binchy, Colum McCann, Mary Dempsey, Colm Tóibín and Tim Pat Coogan.

Creedon has worked closely with Irish America over the past 20 years. He first presented a coast-to-coast, seven-city reading tour as a guest of the Irish American Cultural Institute back in 2007. His film documentaries have been screened by various organisations and institutions including New York University and at Origin Theatre, New York. Numerous of his stage plays have been produced in New York, including When I Was God and After Luke at the Irish Repertory Theatre New York.

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