Irish author brings beefy €100,000 international literary award home to Dublin for his novel Let the Great World Spin
The world’s richest literary prize, the €100,000 Impac award, was brought home to its native city by the Dublin author Colum McCann last night.
McCann, raised in Dublin but a native of Manhattan for more than 10 years, took the International Impac Dublin literary award for his novel Let the Great World Spin. Set in New York in 1974, as Philippe Petit tightrope walks between the newly built Twin Towers, it tells of interlocking lives in the world below, from a radical Irish monk in the Bronx to an Upper East Side housewife. The novel won the National Book award in 2009, when it was described by judges as “a gravity-defying feat”.
McCann beat his fellow Irish authors William Trevor and Colm Tóibín to win the Impac prize – the largest in the world for a novel published in English – which takes its longlist from suggestions from public libraries around the world. Let the Great World Spin had been the frontrunner to take the prize among libraries, receiving the most nominations (14) on a shortlist which also included titles by the Australian novelist David Malouf and the American writers Joyce Carol Oates and Barbara Kingsolver.
The Impac’s judging panel, which featured Irish novelist John Boyne and German poet and translator Michael Hofmann, called Let the Great World Spin “a remarkable literary work, a genuinely 21st-century novel that speaks to its time but is not enslaved by it”.
“In the opening pages of Let the Great World Spin, the people of New York City stand breathless and overwhelmed as a great artist dazzles them in a realm that seemed impossible until that moment; Colum McCann does the same thing in this novel, leaving the reader just as stunned as the New Yorkers, just as moved and just as grateful,” they said in a statement.
“The human condition, the kindness and cruelty shown from one man to another, the ways in which we suffer and triumph, are subjects which have resonated through fiction for centuries. In each generation, writers explore these themes and rephrase the questions that our humanity asks of us. There are few answers in this novel. Its beguiling nature leaves the reader with as much uncertainty as we feel throughout our lives, but therein lies the power of fiction and of this book in particular.”
“Colum McCann joins a long list of eminent novelists to win this award,” said the lord mayor and patron of the award, Gerry Breen, “and it is wonderful and fitting to have a Dublin winner in the year that Dublin was awarded Unesco City of Literature designation, a designation in perpetuity.”