Author Kevin Barry Wins 2013 Impac Literary Award

By Adam Farley, Editorial Assistant
June 7, 2013

A little over a year ago, IA asked Kevin Barry what he would be doing if he weren’t a writer. He answered, “lumberjack.” But Barry, who was born in Limerick and currently lives in Sligo, won’t have to resort to deforesting northern Maine anytime soon (unless he wants to), because he is the just-named recipient of the 2013 International Impac Dublin Literary Award. The €100,000 award bills itself as the world’s most lucrative for a single work written in English—and Barry’s 2012 debut novel City of Bohane fit that bill.

City of Bohane was a much-anticipated novel from a writer whose first short story collection, There Are Little Kingdoms, garnered much praise. City of Bohane however, garnered much more. IA’s Sheila Langan classified it as “Half a Clockwork Orange-ish comedy, half an almost Joycean rendering of a dystopian city;” the Guardian says it’s a “novel about homicidal teenage hipsters in a future stripped of technology;” and Pete Hamill wrote in the New York Times Review of Books that it “resembles an Icelandic saga welded to a ballad of the American West.”

Barry and Bohane (now out in paperback) beat out the nine other shortlist novelists and novels for this year’s award, including the U.S.’s Karen Russell who was nominated for Swamplandia!, Haruki Murakami, a Japanese powerhouse writer who was nominated for his surrealist 1Q84, and French author Michel Houellebecq whose The Map and the Territory fictionalizes the homicide of Houellebecq himself.

The Impac award is unique in that works are nominated by libraries from around the world, and only then are a shortlist and winner selected by a panel of judges. Of City of Bohane, the judges said, it “is a place you may not want to be alive in, but you’ll certainly relish reading about. This is not a future of shiny technology but one in which history turns in circles and quirks an eyebrow at the idea of ‘progress’.”

On winning the award, Barry himself told the Guardian, “It’s a really cool thing to see yourself alongside writers who you’ve read for years and admired and had fun with.” Only two other Irish writers have won the award since its inception in 1996, Colm Tóibín and Colum McCann.

If you’re interested in learning more about Barry’s lumberjacking, what’s on his bedside table, or what he thinks Cuchullain ate, you can read Irish America’s full 2012 “What Are You Like?” interview with Kevin Barry here.

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