American author Akhil Sharma has won the 2016 International Dublin Literary Award for his "heart-wrenching" and "darkly funny" novel Family Life (Faber).
The award is organised and sponsored by Dublin City Council and at €100,000 (£78,154.17) is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Uniquely, the award receives its nominations from public libraries in cities around the globe and recognises both writers and translators.
Sharma beat off competition from Marlon James and debut novelists Mary Costello and Scholastique Mukasonga, among others on the shortlist, to claim the prize.
Sharma was born in Delhi, India, and moved with his family to the United States when he was eight-years-old. He is the author of An Obedient Father (WW Norton & Company), winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in New York City and is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark.
Family Life tells the story of eight-year-old Ajay, whose family move from Delhi to America in 1978. Life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family’s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family’s new life.
Lord Mayor and Patron, Críona Ní Dhálaigh, said: “I am delighted that Dublin City Council is now the full owner and sponsor of the International Dublin Literary Award. Initiatives such as this award have consolidated Dublin’s position as a centre of literary excellence on the world stage. Dublin’s rich literary and cultural life makes Dublin a great destination for tourists, for students, and for overseas businesses, and indeed adds to the quality of life for all of us."
Commenting on his win, Sharma said: “To be acknowledged by people I respect is a strange thing. I can't say I fooled them. I feel abashed by this honour.”
The 2016 judging panel, which includes Irish author Carlo Gébler, said: “Suffering and the struggle to ameliorate suffering are not unknown in fiction but Family Life pulls off the extraordinary feat of showing them in their correct alignment. Closing the book, having known this mix of light and dark, you are left with the sense that while reading you were actually at the core of human experience and what it is to be alive. This is the highest form of achievement in literature. Few manage it. This novel does. Triumphantly. Luminously. Movingly. ”
The winning novel was chosen from a total of 160 titles, nominated by libraries in 118 cities in 43 countries. It was first published in the USA by W.W. Norton and in the UK by Faber & Faber. The shortlist of 10 novels, as chosen by an international panel of judges, included novels from five continents. Sharma is the third American author to win the prize in its 21 year history.
The winner was announced at a ceremony in Dublin's Mansion House today (9th June). Sharma was presented with a cheque for €100,000 by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of the Award’s founders and sponsors, Dublin City Council.
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