Five Irish novels on Impac longlist

Books nominated by public libraries for consideration include 142 novels

The 20th International Impac Dublin Literary Award longlist announced on Monday includes two former winners. The award that has achieved so much in alerting readers to the wealth of international fiction in translation continues to honour the contribution of libraries.

The longlist, comprising titles recommended by readers, was announced this morning. Among the 142 novels, 49 of which are in translation, submitted for consideration are five Irish novels, including Transatlantic by one of two former Impac winners Colum McCann.

The other Irish novels are The Guts by Roddy Doyle, The Thing About December by Donal Ryan, nominated by his home library of Limerick City, The Rising of Bella Casey by Mary Morrissy and The Herbalist by Niamh Joyce. Other nominees are two Man Booker-winning works, New Zealander Eleanor Catton's The Luminaries and Tasmanian Richard Flanagan The Narrow Road to the Deep North. The 2003 Nobel Laureate for Literature, J.M.Coetzee has been nominated for his most controversial work to date, The Childhod of Jesus which left many of his admirers, such as me, deeply confused.

Novels which have recently featured on prize lists such as the Man Booker and the Bailey's Prize, Jhumpa Lahiri's The Lowland -shortlist for both - and Donna Tartt's Bailey's contender The Goldfinch have been long listed as had Tim Winton's Eyrie which was shortlisted earlier this year for Australia's Miles Franklin award which he had won four times previously. Ignored by Man Booker he could well make the Impac short list. Also worth noting is British writer Kate Atkinson's Life After Life which was very widely - and well - reviewed. Tartt's novel had the highest number of nominations, 19 libraries selected The Goldfinch.


Thomas Pynchon has been long listed for Bleeding Edge and given his legendary reticence it would be most intriguing to see what would happen should his novel emerge on the short list to be announced on April 15th. As always and evidence of her enduring popularity Margaret Atwood, a stalwart of libraries, features among the submissions with MaddAdam. The 1997 Impac winner Spain's Javier Marias has this time been longlisted for The Infatuations.

It is interesting to see French writer, Delphine de Vigan nominated for Nothing Holds Back the Night, a harrowing account of her beautiful and doomed mother's horrific struggle with various bouts of mental illness and with life itself which began in the heart of deeply dysfunctional family headed by parents, the author's grandparents, who emerge as a heedless pair utterly oblivious to the needs of their children. De Vigan's book, with its many passages about her own personal difficulties, would seem to be far more of a candid memoir, yet it has been described as auto-fiction.

Translator Howard Curtis is involved with four of the novels nominated including a most ironic contender, The Parrots by Flippo Bologna - which sounds like an alias - the novel is about a pretty ridiculous literary prize.

Another translator with a strong presence is Anthea Bell. Two of the many distinguished German novels she has worked on over the years are included; Julia Franck's Back to Back and Eugen Ruge's powerful family saga spanning three generations, In Times of Fading Light. Ruge could, and should, make the short list.

The prize is worth €100,000 to the winner if the book was originally published in English; or €75,000 to the author and €25, 000 to the translator in the case of translation. There are many big books here, and not just in terms of length as with Catton and Tarrt, or Italian, one of seven included this year, Antonio Pennacchi's engaging The Mussolini Canal, but sometimes a little book can stand more than equal.

That novel is The Maid's Version the Missourian Daniel Woodrell who was born in Ozarks where he still lives.

Based partly on an explosion that destroyed a packed dance hall in Missouri in 1929, Woodrell's narrator is the grandson of old Alma, a woman who mourns the death of her wayward young sister who appears to have been the victim of a deadly crime of passion.

Set in a small town festering with anger and ancient slights, it is an eerie, wondrous elegy. Daniel Woodrell understands the essential menace residing deep within human nature and although only 164 pages this is indeed a huge book and would prove a bold, majestic winner.

The shortlist will be announced on April 15th while the winner will be revealed on June 17th.

Eileen Battersby

Eileen Battersby

The late Eileen Battersby was the former literary correspondent of The Irish Times