Michel Déon Prize shortlist revealed

Emilie Pine and Robert Gerwarth among six Irish writers on €10,000 award shortlist

The Royal Irish Academy has announced the six shortlisted titles for the inaugural Michel Déon Prize for non-fiction.

They are:
I Found my Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice (Chatto & Windus)
The Vanquished: Why the First Word War Failed to End by Robert Gerwarth (Allen Lane)
Hard Border: Walking through a Century of Partition by Darach MacDonald (New Island)
The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland by Breandán MacSuibhne (Oxford University Press)
The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-century Ireland by Vincent Morley (Cork University Press)

Notes to Self: Essays by Emilie Pine (Tramp Press)

More than 240 titles were nominated through the RIA’s website and the judging panel made their choice from the eligible titles, based on originality, quality of writing and contribution to knowledge and/or public debate.

The €10,000 prize is sponsored by the Department of Foreign Affairs. The author will also get the opportunity to give the Michel Déon Lecture in France in early 2019.


To reflect the work and interests of the French writer Michel Déon, who made Ireland his home from the 1970s until his death in 2016, the eligible categories for the prize were: autobiography, biography, cultural studies, history, literary studies, philosophy, travel. Authors of any nationality living on the island of Ireland who had published a nonfiction book from July 2016 to July 2018 were eligible. The winner will be announced at an event in early December.

Déon (1919-2016) is considered to have been one of the leading French writers of the 20th century and lived in Ireland from the 1970s until his death in 2016. He published more than 50 works of fiction and non-fiction and was the recipient of numerous awards, including the Prix Interallié for his 1970 novel, Les Poneys sauvages (The Wild Ponies). Déon’s 1973 novel Un taxi mauve received the Grand Prix du roman de l’Académie française and in 1978 he was elected to the Académie française.

I Found my Tribe by Ruth Fitzmaurice (Chatto & Windus)
Ruth's tribe are her lively children and her late filmmaker husband, Simon, who had motor neurone disease and could only communicate with his eyes. Ruth's other 'tribe' are the friends who gather at the cove in Greystones, Co Wicklow, and regularly throw themselves into the freezing cold water, just for kicks.

‘The Tragic Wives’ Swimming Club’, as they jokingly call themselves, meet to cope with the extreme challenges life puts in their way, not to mention the monster waves rolling over the horizon.

An invocation to all of us to love as hard as we can, and live even harder, I Found My Tribe is an urgent and uplifting letter to a husband, family, friends, the natural world and the brightness of life.

Ruth Fitzmaurice was born in 1976 and grew up in Co Louth, Ireland. She was a radio researcher and producer when she married film director and writer Simon, in 2004, and had three children. In January 2016, Ruth wrote her first piece for the Irish Times about family life and a new passion, sea swimming. She lives in Greystones, with her five children, Jack, Raife, Arden, Sadie and Hunter. Simon sadly died in 2017.

The Vanquished: Why the First Word War Failed to End by Robert Gerwarth (Allen Lane)
For the Western allies November 11th, 1918 has always been a solemn date - the end of fighting which had destroyed a generation, and also a vindication of a terrible sacrifice with the total collapse of their principal enemies: the German Empire, Austria-Hungary and the Ottoman Empire. But for much of the rest of Europe this was a day with no meaning, as a continuing, nightmarish series of conflicts engulfed country after country. In this highly original, gripping book Robert Gerwarth asks us to think again about the true legacy of the First World War.

Robert Gerwarth is Professor of Modern History at University College Dublin and Director of its Centre for War Studies. He is the author of The Bismarck Myth and a biography of Reinhard Heydrich. He has studied and taught in the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany and France.

Hard Border: Walking through a Century of Partition by Darach MacDonald (New Island)
Hard Border goes to the very root s of the Irish boundary where, after decades of division and conflict, a fragile peace has prevailed since the Good Friday Agreement of 1998. Post-Brexit, it will re-emerge as the only land frontier between the United Kingdom and the European Union.

In his travelogue of the abandoned 50-mile route along the Ulster Canal, Darach MacDonald presents a close-up narrative history of Ireland. On his journey through five of Ulster’s nine counties, he looks at the confounding realities and identities brought to the boil by history, geography, politics and faith.

He traces the region’s pivotal role in the story of Ireland; the facts and anomalies of an arbitrary partition, the impact on local communities, especially among minorities marooned on the ‘wrong side’, as well as uplifting efforts to forge new links and aid the recovery from trauma.Through travelogues, journals, tales and poetry, he examines how the border and its communities have been portrayed through the decades.

Above all, these are the stories of tightly knit communities straddling an historically contested line while struggling for survival and recognition in its liminal shadows.

Darach MacDonald has been a professional journalist since 1976, working throughout Ireland, Europe and in Canada and closing his full-time newspaper career as editor of the award-winning Ulster Herald. In 2015, he was conferred with a PhD by Ulster University (Magee) for research on a frontier Ulster loyalist marching band, having completed his MA thesis on the Irish Boundary Commission almost forty years previously at University College Dublin. He is the author of four previous books: The Sons of Levi (1998); The Chosen Fews: Exploding Myths in South Armagh (2000); Blood & Thunder: Inside an Ulster Protestant Band (2010); and To?char: Walking Ireland’s Ancient Pilgrim Paths (2013). A native of Clones, a proud father and very soon-to-be grandfather, he now lives in the border city of Derry.

The End of Outrage: Post-Famine Adjustment in Rural Ireland by Breandán MacSuibhne (Oxford University Press)
South-west Donegal, Ireland, June 1856. From the time that the blight first came on the potatoes in 1845, armed and masked men dubbed Molly Maguires had been raiding the houses of people deemed to be taking advantage of the rural poor. On some occasions, they represented themselves as 'Molly's Sons', sent by their mother, to carry out justice; on others, a man attired as a woman, introducing 'herself' as Molly Maguire, demanding redress for wrongs inflicted on her children. The raiders might stipulate the maximum price at which provisions were to be sold, warn against the eviction of tenants, or demand that an evicted family be reinstated to their holding. People who refused to meet their demands were often viciously beaten and, in some instances, killed - offences that the Constabulary classified as 'outrages'. Catholic clergymen regularly denounced the Mollies and in 1853, the district was proclaimed under the Crime and Outrage (Ireland) Act. Yet the 'outrages' continued.

Ultimately, the concern is how the poor themselves came to terms with their loss: how their own outrage at what had been done unto them and their forbears lost malignancy, and eventually ended. The author being a native of the small community that is the focus of The End of Outrage makes it an extraordinarily intimate and absorbing history.

Breandán Mac Suibhne is a historian of modern Ireland (PhD, Carnegie Mellon). His publications include, with David Dickson, The Outer Edge of Ulster (2000), an annotated edition of the longest lower-class account of Ireland’s Great Famine. He was born in the community that is the focus of The End of Outrage, making it a particularly intimate and absorbing history of a small place in a time of great change. He lives in Galway with his family and is a fellow of the Moore Institute for the Humanities in the National University of Ireland, Galway.

The Popular Mind in Eighteenth-century Ireland by Vincent Morley (Cork University Press)
This book is a study of the Irish popular mind between the late-seventeenth and the early-nineteenth century. It examines the collective assumptions, aspirations, fears, resentments and prejudices of the common people as they are revealed in the vernacular literature of the period.

The topics investigated include: politics, religion, historical memory, European conflicts, Anglo-Irish patriotism, agrarian agitation, the tumultuous decade of the 1790s, and the rise of Daniel O’Connell. Extensive use is made of contemporary song and verse preserved in literary manuscripts from the eighteenth and the nineteenth centuries - an essential source that has previously been neglected by historians. Elements of both continuity and change are identified, and the evolution of popular attitudes is traced over the hundred and fifty years from the Williamite conquest to O’Connell’s campaign for Repeal of the Union.

The texts of eight important works composed between 1691 and 1830 are presented in full - seven of them translated for the first time - to allow those who are unable to read the originals an opportunity to assess the temper of Irish popular culture during a formative period in the country’s history. This book substantially revises, extends and updates the view of eighteenth-century Irish literature that was presented in Daniel Corkery’s classical account, The Hidden Ireland.

Vincent Morley is a native of Dublin city, he has a primary degree in history (UCD, 1989), a master’s degree in Irish studies (UCD, 1992), and a doctorate in history (University of Liverpool, 1999). He was a researcher on the Royal Irish Academy’s Dictionary of Irish Biography project and lectured in history at the National University of Ireland, Galway. Since 2004, he has been employed in the public service. The main focus of his interest is the history of Ireland during the ‘long’ 18th century - from the Williamite war to the battle of Waterloo.

Notes to Self: Essays by Emilie Pine (Tramp Press)
The person who loves the addict exhausts and renews their love on a daily basis.

In this vivid and powerful collection of essays, Emilie Pine writes about all the things she shouldn’t say. Addressing addiction, fertility, feminism, sexual violence and depression, Notes to Self is raw, funny and honest.

Unsentimental and brave, this startling debut breaks new ground in the field of personal essays.

Emilie Pine is Associate Professor of Modern Drama at University College Dublin. Emilie is Editor of the Irish University Review and Director of the Irish Memory Studies Network (www.irishmemorystudies.com). She is PI of the Irish Research Council New Horizons project Industrial Memories, a digital humanities re-reading of the Ryan Report on institutional child abuse (https://industrialmemories.ucd.ie). Emilie has published widely in the fields of Irish studies, Performance studies, and Memory studies, including The Politics of Irish Memory: Performing Remembrance in Contemporary Irish Culture (Palgrave, 2011) and The Memory Marketplace: Performance, Testimony and Witnessing in Contemporary Theatre (forthcoming Indiana University Press, 2019). Her No.1 bestselling collection of personal essays, Notes to Self, is published by Tramp Press (2018).