Man Booker shortlist brings mixed fortunes for Irish authors

A sneak preview of Saturday’s books pages

 

Today’s Man Booker Prize shortlist announcement has brought mixed fortunes for the three longlisted Irish authors. Many people’s favourite for the prize, Normal People by Sally Rooney, and From A Low and Quiet Sea by Donal Ryan, longlisted for a second time, were passed over this time by the judges. Belfast writer Anna Burns, however, has been shortlisted for her brilliant, challenging and utterly original third novel, Milkman.

Milkman is “an impressive, wordy, often funny book and confirms Anna Burns as one of our rising literary stars”, Irish Times reviewer Adrian McKinty said. Eoin McNamee wrote: “I haven’t stopped talking about Anna Burns’s astonishing Milkman. The voice is dazzling, funny, acute. Like all great writing it invents its own context, becomes its own universe. It’s not that she’s below the radar. It may be that when you’re talking about writing from Belfast, she is the radar, the finder of strange objects at a distance, the uncoverer of what moves unseen in the dark.”

At the last count, it had only sold 797 copies in Ireland, in contrast to 10,913 copies of From A Low and Quiet Sea and 5,389 copies of Normal People. Milkman is exactly the type of book that should benefit from the commercial boost and critical spotlight a Man Booker shortlisting provides.

This Saturday’s books pages feature a handsome spread of portraits by photographer John Minihan of 12 young Irish authors, shot for a promotional series of postcards commissioned by Literature Ireland to promote translations of Irish works worldwide.

We also have tributes to Edna O’Brien from three writers – Danielle McLaughlin, Sean O’Reilly and Louise Nealon – who took part in a UCD event this week to celebrate ther 60 years as a published author. Elsewhere, Sheila O’Flanagan argues the case that Ireland’s popular fiction tradition deserves more appreciation.

Our reviews include Seán Hewitt on Love Is Blind by William Boyd; John Boyne on French Exit by Patrick deWitt; Declan Kiberd on A Reluctant Memoir by Robert Ballagh; Sinéad Gleeson on Ghost Wall by Sarah Moss; Sarah Gilmartin on States of Passion by Nihad Sirees; Stephen Philips on The Coddling of the American Mind; Niamh Towey on The Importance of Being Aisling by Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen; Nicole Flattery on Lily Allen’s memoir; Brendan Kelly on Frederick Douglass and Ireland by Christine Kinealy; John McAuliffe on poetry by Nick Laird and the late Dermot Healy; Éilís Ní Dhuibhne on Craic Baby by Darach Ó Séaghdha; Julie Parsons on Into Thin Air by Jon Krakauer; and a new poem by Thomas McCarthy.

Readers who buy The Irish Times at any Eason’s story in the Republic can buy a copy of Macbeth by Jo Nesbo for €4.99, a saving of €6.

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