Colm Tóibín is new Laureate for Irish Fiction

Wexford author’s three-year term follows Sebastian Barry and Anne Enright

Colm Tóibín, who succeeds  Sebastian Barry and Anne Enright as the Laureate for Irish Fiction. Photograph: Barry Cronin

Colm Tóibín, who succeeds Sebastian Barry and Anne Enright as the Laureate for Irish Fiction. Photograph: Barry Cronin

 

Colm Tóibín is the new Laureate for Irish Fiction, the Arts Council has announced this morning.

He takes over from Sebastian Barry, who followed inaugural laureate Anne Enright. His three-year term will begin this month.

The role seeks to acknowledge the contribution of fiction writers to Irish artistic and cultural life by honouring an established Irish writer of fiction, encouraging a new generation of writers, promoting Irish literature nationally and internationally and encouraging the public to engage with Irish fiction.

“Colm is one of our finest writers with a recognised international reputation,” Prof Kevin Rafter, chair of the Arts Council, said. “His novels and short stories are not just acclaimed by critics but they are also loved by readers. I know he will bring his tremendous intellect, and endless energy and empathy, to the role of Laureate for Irish Fiction.”

Tóibín said: “I am honoured to be appointed Laureate. I am proud to follow Anne Enright and Sebastian Barry in establishing a public role for a writer of fiction in Ireland. I will do what I can to work with a community of readers so that fiction continues to enrich our lives, allow us to see the world more clearly, or with a deepened sense of mystery. I will also work with fellow writers and aspiring writers to enhance the role novels and stories play in Irish life.”

Eleanor Wachtel, the Canadian critic, broadcaster and a member of the international selection panel, said: “I’ve been following Colm Tóibín’s work for almost 30 years and have long admired his intelligence, erudition, wit and compassion. From his thoughtful essays to his engaging fiction, he’s remarkably talented and prolific, full of warmth and enthusiasm – a true man of letters, generous both as a writer and as a reader. It’s thrilling that he has agreed to be Ireland’s new Laureate for Fiction.”

As part of his public programme, Tóibín, in partnership with Libraries Ireland, will present The Art of Reading, a monthly book club for library book clubs across the country and offered as an online event for readers everywhere on the last Thursday of every month.

Over the course of the year, the Laureate will discuss a selection of titles by Irish writers, highlighting outstanding Irish writing and celebrating the reader and book clubs. In some cases, the Laureate will be joined by the featured writer in conversation about their book. The first event, a discussion with Claire Keegan about her recent book Small Things Like These, will be available for streaming on Thursday, February 24th. Readers can sign up for The Art of Reading Book Club via Facebook and follow @LaureateFiction on Twitter #TheArtofReading and Instagram @laureateirishfiction.

The Laureate’s annual lecture will be delivered in the autumn, in Galway. More details can be found on the Arts Council’s website.

Tóibín was born in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford, in 1955 and educated at University College Dublin. He lived in Catalonia for several years before he returned to Dublin to work as a journalist, becoming features editor of In Dublin in 1981 and editor of Magill in 1982. In 1987, he received a bursary from the Arts Council to support his early writing. His three travel books are: Bad Blood: A Walk along the Irish Border (1987); Homage to Barcelona (1990); and The Sign of the Cross: Travels in Catholic Europe (1984).

His latest novel is The Magician (2021), basaed on the life of Thomas Mann. His other nine novels include The Master (2004), winner of the Dublin IMPAC Prize and the LA Times Novel of the Year; Brooklyn (2009), winner of the Costa Novel of the Year; and Nora Webster (2014), winner of the Hawthornden Prize. His two collections of stories are Mothers and Sons (2006), winner of the Edge Hill Prize, and The Empty Family (2010), shortlisted for the Frank O’Connor Award. His plays include The Testament of Mary (2011), nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play. Vinegar Hill, his debut collection of poetry, will be published by Carcanet in March. The collection is named after the site of a battle between United Irishmen and British forces in 1798 near his native Enniscorthy.

In 1993, he was elected to Aosdána and in 2020 became a vice-president of the Royal Society of Literature. He is a member of both the American Academy of Arts and Letters and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. His work has been translated into more than 30 languages. He is a contributing editor at the London Review of Books. In 1995, he received the EM Forster Prize from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. In 2017 he won the Kenyon Review Award for Literary Achievement and the Richard C. Holbrooke Distinguished Award from the Dayton Literary Peace Prize. In 2021 was awarded the David Cohen Prize. He has taught at Stanford University, the University of Texas at Austin, Princeton University, the University of Manchester and Columbia University. He is Chancellor of the University of Liverpool.

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