#DubLitAward 13th June 2018
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack wins the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award
13th June 2018: Irish author Mike McCormack has won the 2018 International DUBLIN Literary Award for his novel Solar Bones. The Award is organised and sponsored by Dublin City Council and at €100,000 is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Mike McCormack is the fourth Irish author to win the prize in its 23-year history.
Uniquely, the Award receives its nominations from public libraries in cities around the globe and recognises both writers and translators. The winner was announced at a ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House today.
Mike McCormack is an award-winning novelist and short story writer from County Mayo, Ireland. In 1996 he was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature and in 2007 he was awarded a Civitella Ranieri Fellowship. In 2016 he won the Goldsmiths Prize and the Bord Gáis Energy Irish Book Award for best novel for Solar Bones. He was elected to Aosdána in May 2018. He currently lives in Galway, Ireland.
The winning novel was chosen from a total of 150 titles, nominated by libraries in 111 cities across 37 countries. It was first published by Tramp Press, an independent Irish publisher founded by Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen. The shortlist of ten novels, as chosen by an international panel of judges, included novels from four continents.
Once a year, on All Souls’ Day, it is said in Ireland that the dead may return. Solar Bones is the story of one such visit. Marcus Conway, a middle-aged engineer, turns up one afternoon at his kitchen table and considers the events that took him away and then brought him home again. Funny and strange, McCormack’s ambitious and other-worldly novel plays with form and defies convention. This profound new work is by one of Ireland’s most important contemporary novelists. A beautiful and haunting elegy, this story of order and chaos, love and loss captures how minor decisions ripple into waves and test our integrity every day.
Commenting on his win, Mike McCormack said: ‘I am delighted to receive this unique prize which continues to recognise the valuable work of libraries around the world. To have Solar Bones chosen from a shortlist with such a broad international outlook is a special honour indeed. I have always thought that the inclusion of translated work is a particularly valuable aspect of the International DUBLIN Literary Award; these different voices and the diverse ways in which they tell their stories ensures that the novel in English does not become dull or complacent. Long may the prize continue to reach out with such intellectual and artistic curiosity across the world.’
Speaking at the winner announcement, Lord Mayor & Patron of the Award Mícheál Mac Donncha remarked; ‘The International DUBLIN Literary Award is a great Dublin success and a great international success – and our thanks go to all who are involved in making the Award work – writers, translators, publishers, librarians, and the administrative staff of the City Council.’
The prize money was presented to the winner by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of the Award’s founders and sponsors, Dublin City Council. The Award is a key part of the City’s work in promoting Dublin as a UNESCO City of Literature, and as a great place for people to live, work in, and visit.
The Award ceremony at The Mansion House in Dublin was livestreamed on the International DUBLIN Literary Award Facebook page to allow people from across the world to tune in to the event.
The 2018 judging panel, which includes Irish poet Vona Groarke, commented:
‘Formally ambitious, stylistically dauntless and linguistically spirited, Solar Bones is a novel of extraordinary assurance and scope. That its protagonist, Marcus Conway, is dead we know from the back cover blurb: the novel’s task is, through the miracle of language, to bring him back to life. And so it does, bringing him back to his life, a life experienced as both ordinary (in its daily routines) and extraordinary (in its probing of what it means to be alive).
The novel’s seamless structure gives it a beautifully fluid pace. An extremely enjoyable read, it is also poignant, moving and evocative. Although firmly committed to its particular Mayo setting, this is a novel of universal appeal: if you know Ireland, you will recognise this world; but if you don’t, you will still recognise Marcus Conway, a rich and (literally!) haunting character who brings a whole world to life.’ (full citation below)
The other judges were Xiaolu Guo, Nicky Harman, Courttia Newland and Mpalive Msiska. The non-voting chair was Judge Eugene Sullivan.
Solar Bones was nominated by Galway Libraries and by Nottingham Libraries, who commented:
‘A readable, experimental novel set in and described as a hymn to small town Ireland.
This is such a unique and unusual book that we feel the author deserves recognition. The novel is written in a single sentence which could have felt like a literary gimmick but instead comes across as really accomplished storytelling. In addition to his distinctive technique McCormack also brilliantly describes the area in which the book is set, making it a powerful element in the book.’
The 2018 shortlist included six novels in translation and authors and translators from America, Germany/Ukraine, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Norway, South Africa/Nigeria/Barbados, South Korea and the UK.
Copies of the winner, the shortlist and the full list of novels nominated for the 2018 award available to borrow from Dublin Public libraries.
For further information:
Media Relations & Corporate Communications, Dublin City Council, Civic Offices, Wood Quay, Dublin 8, Ireland,
- 01 222 2170
For interview requests: Ruth Doyle / Kristin Kenny, Wilson Hartnell,
+353 879448134 / +353 85 8410814
Notes for editors
The International DUBLIN Literary Award is presented annually to promote excellence in world literature. It is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the work has been published in English or in English translation in the specified time period as outlined in the rules and conditions for the year. Nominations are submitted by library systems in major cities throughout the world.
The Award is sponsored by Dublin City Council and managed by Dublin City Public Libraries.
The other shortlisted novels for the 2018 Award were Baba Dunja’s Last Love by Alina Bronsky, translated from German by Tim Mohr; The Transmigration of Bodies by Yuri Herrera, translated from Spanish by Lisa Dillman; The Unseen by Roy Jacobsen, translated from Noregian by Don Bartlett & Don Shaw; Human Acts by Han Kang, translated from Korean by Deborah Smith; The Lesser Bohemians by Eimear McBride; Distant Light by Antonio Morecso, translated from Italian by Richard Dixon; Ladivine by Marie Ndiaye, translated from French by Jordan Stump; The Woman Next Door by Yewande Omotoso and My Name is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout.
Previous Irish winners of the award are Colm Toibín (The Master 2006); Colum McCann (Let the Great World Spin 2011) and Kevin Barry (City of Bohane, 2013).
Recent winners of the award include:
A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (2017), Family Life by Akhil Sharma (2016), Harvest by Jim Crace (2015), The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (2014), City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (2013), Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor (2012), Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2011), The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (2010)
See www.dublinliteraryaward.ie for full details of the International DUBLIN Literary Award.
Citation, author details, 2018 judging panel and previous winners below.
Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, 2018 Winner
Formally ambitious, stylistically dauntless and linguistically spirited, Solar Bones is a novel of extraordinary assurance and scope. That its protagonist, Marcus Conway, is dead we know from the back cover blurb: the novel’s task is, through the miracle of language, to bring him back to life. And so it does, bringing him back to his life, a life experienced as both ordinary (in its daily routines) and extraordinary (in its probing of what it means to be alive).
Marcus Conway is a complex and challenging hero: a flawed, bullish and impatient protagonist, but a compelling character nonetheless who engineers his private and public selves into a finely-tuned consciousness that animates and underwrites every episode of this remembered life. Marcus’ memory is exhaustive, ranging between the various circumstances of his family and work lives. The novel is episodic and what runs under each episode is a current of intense feeling and keenly-honed attention.
In this probing of what it means to play out the various roles of husband, father, son, brother, colleague and neighbour, Solar Bones offers a sharp, acerbic and often very funny response to contemporary Irish masculinity. Its account of the relationship between Marcus and Mairead is a particularly piercing and affecting portrayal of contemporary marriage, with its necessary inter-webbings and defended privacies; its desires, losses and rewards.
By times sharp and critical; by others, surprisingly tender and alert, Marcus’s narrative voice collates a lifetime’s worth of experience into an account that neither glamourises its consolations, nor reneges upon its failings and shortcomings.
The novel’s seamless structure gives it a beautifully fluid pace. An extremely enjoyable read, it is also poignant, moving and evocative. Although firmly committed to its particular Mayo setting, this is a novel of universal appeal: if you know Ireland, you will recognise this world; but if you don’t, you will still recognise Marcus Conway, a rich and (literally!) haunting character who brings a whole world to life.
2018 Judging Panel
Vona Groarke has published seven collections of poetry with Gallery Press, the most recent being X (2014) and Selected Poems, reviewed in The Dublin Review of Books as a collection ‘of almost sublime purity’ and awarded the Pigott Prize for the best book of poetry by an Irish poet in 2016. Described in the Irish Times as ‘intriguing… erudite and elegant’, her book-length essay on art-frames, Four Sides Full, was also published in 2016 and was the Book on One on RTE Radio. Her poems have recently appeared in The New Yorker, Ploughshares, The New York Review of Books and The Threepenny Review. A former editor of Poetry Ireland Review and Selector for the Poetry Book Society, she is a Senior Lecturer in poetry at the University of Manchester. She was the 2017 inductee into the Irish Literary Hall of Fame, and has been a member of Aosdána since 2010.
Nicky Harman is co-Chair of the Translators Association (Society of Authors) and translates Chinese literature (and some non-fiction and poetry) into English. Her authors include Chen Xiwo, Han Dong, Hong Ying, Dorothy Tse, Xinran, Yan Geling and Zhang Ling. She mentors new translators, teaches summer schools, and judges translation competitions. She works with others on the literary website Paper Republic (paper-republic.org), writes blogs and runs events to promote Chinese literature in English, in collaboration with the London Free Word Centre, Southbank Centre and the Writing Chinese project (Leeds University). She tweets as @cfbcuk and @NickyHarman_cn. She is based in Weymouth, UK.
Xiaolu Guo is a Chinese British novelist, essayist and filmmaker. She has published seven novels, short story collections and a memoir with Random House UK/USA. Her novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers was translated into 27 languages and was nominated for the Orange Prize for Fiction. UFO In Her Eyes, a study of totalitarianism in a semi-real Chinese village, has been translated into 9 languages and made into an award winning feature film. Her other novels such as Village of Stone was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize. Her most recent novel is I Am China, about the artist’s role in a politicized world, longlisted for the Baileys Women’s Fiction Prize. Her memoir Once Upon A Time in the East was released in 2017 by Penguin Random House. In 2013 she was named as one of Granta’s Best Young British Novelists. She lives in London.
Courttia Newland is the author of seven works of fiction that include his debut, The Scholar. His latest novel, The Gospel According to Cane, was published in 2013 and has been optioned by Cowboy Films. He was nominated for the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award, The Frank O’ Conner award, The CWA Dagger in the Library Award, The Hurston/Wright Legacy Award and The Theatre 503 Award for playwriting as well as numerous others. His short stories have appeared in many anthologies and broadcast on BBC Radio 4. In 2016 he was awarded the Tayner Barbers Award for science fiction writing and the Roland Rees Busary for playwriting. He is associate lecturer in creative writing at the University of Westminster and is completing a PhD in creative writing.
Dr Mpalive-Hangson Msiska is a Reader in English and Humanities at Birkbeck, University of London, with special interest in Post-colonial and Global Literatures. He has written widely on African and Post-colonial Literatures, including the following books: Post-colonial Identity in Wole Soyinka (2007) and Chinua Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (2007) (co-authored). He has been a judge for the Caine Prize for African Writing as well as the Brunel University African Poetry Prize. He sits on the Boards of the Royal African Society, The Canon Collins Education and Legal Trust and The British Institute in Eastern Africa.
Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan, non-voting chair of the judging panel, is a Senior Federal Judge and a former Chief Judge of a US Court of Appeals and brings a wealth of experience from over sixteen years on the bench. His first novel, The Majority Rules, was published in 2005. His second novel of his political thriller trilogy; The Report to the Judiciary, was published in 2008. When not recalled to the Federal Bench, Judge Sullivan is a partner in a Washington law firm.
Previous International DUBLIN Literary Award winners:
2017: A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angolan), translated by Daniel Hahn
2016: Family Life by Akhil Sharma (American)
2015: Harvest by Jim Crace (British)
2014: The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez (Colombian), translated by Anne McLean
2013: City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (Irish)
2012: Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor (British)
2011: Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (Irish)
2010: The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (Dutch), translated by David Colmer
2009: Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas (American)
2008: De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage (Lebanese / Canadian)
2007: Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (Norwegian), translated by Anne Born
2006: The Master by Colm Toibín (Irish)
2005: The Known World by Edward P. Jones (American)
2004: This Blinding Absence of Light by Tahar Ben Jelloun (Moroccan) translated by Linda Coverdale
2003: My Name is Red by Orhan Pamuk (Turkish) translated by Erdag M. Göknar
2002: Atomised by Michel Houellebecq (French), translated by Frank Wynne
2001: No Great Mischief by Alistair MacLeod (Canadian)
2000: Wide Open by Nicola Barker (English)
1999: Ingenious Pain by Andrew Miller (English)
1998: The Land of Green Plums by Herta Müller (Romanian), translated from German by Michael Hofmann
1997: A Heart So White by Javier Marías (Spanish), translated by Margaret Jull Costa
1996: Remembering Babylon by David Malouf (Australian)