Anna Burns has become the first author from Northern Ireland to win the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award.
She received the award for her Booker-winning novel Milkman (Faber). With prize money of €100,000 (£90,000), the award is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland and the fourth woman to claim the award in its 25-year history.
The award receives its nominations from public libraries in cities around the world, and recognises both writers and translators. Burns was announced as the winner today (22nd October) during an online event, as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin.
The announcement was delivered from the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, as well as the Irish Embassy in London, where speakers and interviews had been filmed at an earlier date, prior to the newly announced restrictions.
The award is usually presented by Owen Keegan, c.e.o. of Dublin City Council in the Mansion House, however due to the pandemic the award organisers were unable to invite the winner to travel to Dublin from her home in England for the ceremony. Instead the ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom, Adrian O’Neill, presented Burns with her award.
Burns said: "What an honour. I'm thrilled to bits and am about to break into my sevens with the excitement of it all!
This is an extraordinary honour—especially given the fantastic list I find myself on. I thank the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, and Dublin City Council for being the patron and the host of this generous award. Also I salute them for representing Dublin’s position at the cultural heart of worldwide literature."
She went on to praise libraries and talk about how much they meant to her as a child in Belfast. She said: "To go from being a wee girl haggling over library cards with my siblings, my friends, neighbours, my parents and my aunt, to be standing here today receiving this award is phenomenal for me, and I thank you all again for this great honour."
Burns beat off competition from shortlisted writers including Sally Rooney and Jon McGregor.
Speaking at the winner announcement, Lord Mayor Hazel Chu, patron of the award, said: "What a wonderful book and massively talented writer! The judges should be very proud of their work as it wasn’t easy to choose a winner from among this very strong shortlist. I was so delighted to open that envelope and see Milkman written on the card! I wish to extend huge congratulations to Anna Burns."
Burns was born in Belfast and is the author of three novels, No Bones, Little Constructions and Milkman, and of the novella Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Milkman won the 2018 Man Booker Prize.
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