[The JRB Daily] 12 African writers nominated for 2020 International Dublin Literary Award—the world’s richest annual literary prize

Twelve African writers have been longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, the world’s most valuable annual literary prize for a single work of fiction published in English.

The award, worth €100,000 (about R1.6 million), is organised by Dublin City Council, with nominations being submitted by library systems in major cities throughout the world.

African novelists on the longlist include Ijangolet S Ogwang, for An Image in a Mirror; Akwaeke Emezi, for Freshwater; Leïla Slimani, for Lullaby (translated from the French by Sam Taylor); Oyinkan Braithwaite, for My Sister, the Serial Killer; Katharine Kilalea, for OK, Mr Field; Gaël Faye, for Small Country (translated from the French by Sarah Ardizzone); Uzodinma Iweala, for Speak No Evil; Sue Nyathi, for The Gold Diggers; Kirsten Miller, for The Hum of the Sun; Nozizwe Cynthia Jele, for The Ones With Purpose; Ondjaki, for Transparent City (translated from the Portuguese by Stephen Henighan); and Mia Couto, for Woman of the Ashes (translated from the Portuguese by David Brookshaw).

Esi Edugyan, a Canadian author of Ghanaian heritage, has also been longlisted, for her novel Washington Black.

This year, 156 books were nominated by libraries in 119 cities from forty countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, the United States and Canada, South America and Australia and New Zealand. Fifty-one of the books are first novels, while fifty are in translation, spanning twenty-one languages, including Arabic, Catalan, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Icelandic, Italian, Japanese, Korean, Malayalam, Norwegian, Polish, Portugese, Romanian, Russian, Slovene and Spanish.

Translated authors include Peter Handke, Olga Tokarczuk, Benyamin, Chico Buarque, Paolo Cognetti, Adélaide de Clermont-Tonnerre, Julián Fuks and Cristina Rivera Garza.

If the winning book is a translation (as it has been nine times), the prize will be divided between the writer and the translator, with the writer receiving €75,000 and the translator €25,000.

Speaking of the global interest in the award, Dublin City Librarian Mairead Owens said:

‘This great prize affirms Dublin’s commitment to international writers and translators, to literature and creativity. Through this award Dublin, a Unesco City of Literature, brings the worldwide community of readers together to read the works of contemporary writers from all corners of the world.’

Other novels nominated for the 2020 award include Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead by Olga Tokarczuk, winner of the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature and who also won the 2018 Man Booker International Prize for her novel Flights, and The Great Fall by Peter Handke, who was recently awarded the 2019 Nobel Prize for Literature.

The book that received most nominations for 2020 is There There by Tommy Orange, which was chosen by thirteen libraries in Canada, Greece, Ireland and the United States. The second most nominated book was Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, chosen by eleven libraries in Canada, England, Jamaica and the USA. Normal People by Sally Rooney was nominated by libraries in Germany, New Zealand and Ireland.

The 2020 international judging panel includes Irish editor and columnist, Niall MacMonagle; Scottish author and editor Zoë Strachan; Yannick Garcia, a Catalan writer and translator based in Barcelona; bestselling author Cathy Rentzenbrink; and Indian-born translator and arts executive Shreela Ghosh. The non-voting chairperson is Professor Chris Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin.

The 2019 International Dublin Literary Award was won by American author Emily Ruskovich, for her debut novel Idaho, which was nominated by just one library: a branch in Bruges, Belgium.

The award has twice been won by an African author in its twenty-two-year history: Moroccan Tahar Ben Jelloun won in 2004 for his novel Cette aveuglante absence de lumière (This Blinding Absence of Light) in 2004, and Angolan José Eduardo Agualusa won in 2017 for his novel A General Theory of Oblivion.

This year’s shortlist will be announced on 2 April 2020, and the winner on 10 June 2020.

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