2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award Announced


Monday 11th November; Eight novels from Ireland are among 156 books nominated by libraries around the world for the 2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award. With the winner receiving €100,000, the Award is the world’s most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English. Nominations include 50 novels in translation with works nominated by libraries from 40 countries in Africa, Europe, Asia, the US & Canada, South America and Australia & New Zealand.

Organised by Dublin City Council, the 2020 Award was launched today [11th November] by Cllr. Mary Fitzpatrick, representing Lord Mayor Paul McAuliffe, Patron of the Award. Cllr. Fitzpatrick commended the Award for its promotion of excellence in world literature and the opportunity it provides to promote Irish writing internationally;

“I am very pleased that Dublin City Council continues to support this significant international award. Dublin is a UNESCO City of Literature and the Council is committed to further developing the City’s worldwide reputation as a literary destination, a key part of our cultural tourism offering.”

The Irish titles nominated for the 2020 Award are:  

  • A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne
  • Milkman by Anna Burns
  • The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly
  • Begotten Not Made by Cónal Creedon
  • Orchid and the Wasp by Caoilinn Hughes
  • Skin Deep by Liz Nugent
  • Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney

The International DUBLIN Literary Award is managed by Dublin City Council’s library service. Mairead Owens, Dublin City Librarian, announced that the 156 books eligible for the 2020 award were nominated by libraries in 119 cities and 40 countries worldwide; noting that 50 are titles in translation, spanning 21 languages and 51 books are first novels.

Speaking of the global interest in the Award, the City Librarian Mairead Owens remarked;

“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.”

Most Nominated Books

The book that received most nominations for 2020 is There There by Tommy Orange, chosen by 13 libraries inCanada, Greece, Ireland, and the USA . The second-most nominated book is Washington Black by Esi Edugyan, chosen by 11 libraries in Canada, England, Jamaica, and USA. Normal People by Sally Rooney was nominated by libraries in Germany, New Zealand and Ireland.

Katona József Library of Bács-Kiskun County, Hungary nominated Orchid and the Wasp by Irish author Caoilinn Hughes noting: “The book is the girl’s coming of age story across different places and in circumstances of economic collapse and family dynamics.  Themes and messages of morality, mental health, class, religion and contemporary politics are written in a modern and unique style.”

Nominated Nobel Prize Winners

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

2019 Winner

American author Emily Ruskovich was the winner of the prize in 2019 for her first novel, Idaho, and remarked;

“I cannot express how grateful I am to be the recipient of this award. . . I am especially honoured because of the admiration that I feel for the other finalists. Seeing my name beside theirs when the shortlist was announced – that alone was one of the greatest honours of my career.

“It is very special to me that this is an award in which libraries across the world determine the longlist through their nominations. Libraries are places of kindness, existing for the sole purpose of connecting us to each other and to ourselves.”

Novels in Translation

Among the 50 translated books are novels originally published in 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.

Judging Panel

The 2020 international Judging Panel comprises Irish editor and columnist, Niall MacMonagle; Scottish author and editor Zoë Strachan; Yannick Garcia, a Catalan writer and translator based in Barcelona; Cathy Rentzenbrink, a Sunday Times top ten bestseller of the year writer; and Indian-born translator and champion of the novel, Shreela Ghosh. The non-voting Chairperson is Professor Chris Morash, Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin.

Borrow the Books

All the novels nominated for the Award are available for readers to borrow from Dublin’s public libraries. The full list of 156 titles has been published in a free newsletter, and all details are also on the newly revamped Award website at

Key Dates

The shortlist will be published on 2nd April 2020, and the Lord Mayor of Dublin will announce the winner on 10th June 2020. 

The International DUBLIN Literary Award is a Dublin City Council initiative.


For further information contact:

Ruth Doyle, Wilson Hartnell


T: 01-669 0030 / 087-944 8134

Dublin City Council Media Relations Office T. (01) 222 2170, M. 087 740 0277

Notes for Editors:

The International DUBLIN Literary Award is presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English. Nominations are made by library systems in major cities throughout the world. Established in 1994 in partnership with the company IMPAC, the Award is now wholly funded by Dublin City Council. The Award aims to promote excellence in world literature. Designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, Dublin’s literary heritage is a significant driver of cultural tourism for the City.

The Irish titles were nominated as follows:

  • A Ladder to the Sky by John Boyne was nominated by Dunedin Public Libraries, New Zealand.
  • Milkman by Anna Burns was nominated by Redbridge Libraries, England; Stadtbücherei Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Carnegie Library of Pittsburgh, USA, and Limerick City & County Library, Ireland
  • The Woman in the Woods by John Connolly was nominated by Dublin City Libraries, Ireland.
  • Begotten Not Made by Cónal Creedon was was nominated by Cork City Libraries, Ireland.
  • Orchid and the Wasp by Caoilinn Hughes, was nominated by Katona József Library of Bács-Kiskun County, Hungary.
  • Skin Deep by Liz Nugent was nominated by Waterford City & County Libraries, Ireland.
  • Travelling in a Strange Land by David Park was nominated by Dublin City Libraries, Ireland.
  • Normal People by Sally Rooney was nominated by Stadtbücherei Frankfurt am Main, Germany; Dunedin Public Libraries, New Zealand; Christchurch City Libraries, New Zealand, and Waterford City & County Libraries, Ireland.

2020 Judging Panel

Niall MacMonagle was born in Killarney and studied at UCC where he wrote an MA thesis on Virginia Woolf. He taught English for thirty-five years, first at Bandon Grammar School and then at Wesley College, Dublin. He has edited several anthologies and textbooks including the Lifelines series, Poetry Now, and Windharp: Poems of Ireland since 1916. He writes a weekly art column in the Sunday Independent and broadcasts frequently on RTE Radio 1. He founded Poetry Aloud, has done many public author interviews and has served on the boards of the National Library and the Seamus Heaney Foundation. In 2017, he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Letters by UCD for services to literature.

Zoë Strachan was born in Scotland and is the award-winning author of three novels: Ever Fallen in Love, Spin Cycle, and Negative Space. As an editor, she has collected six new writing anthologies, and she also publishes short stories, essays and criticism. She teaches Creative Writing at University of Glasgow and has a PhD in Scottish Literature. Fellowships include the International Writing Program of University of Iowa, the University of Otago, UNESCO City of Literature writer-in-residence at the National Museum of Scotland and a Robert Louis Stevenson Award. Two of her works for stage are Panic Patterns (with Louise Welsh) and an opera adaptation of The Lady from the Sea (music by Craig Armstrong) for the Edinburgh International Festival, where it won a Herald Angel Award.

Yannick Garcia is a Catalan writer and translator based in Barcelona. He has published poetry, for which he won the Gabriel Ferrater Prize, as well as short story collections, such as Barbamecs and La nostra vida vertical which was awarded the Documenta Prize. Many of his stories have appeared in literary magazines and anthologies and have been translated into Spanish, Italian or Galician. He has also translated dozens of books from English and French into Catalan and Spanish by authors such as George Saunders, Lydia Davis, Sherman Alexie, David Vann, Sebastian Barry, Joseph O’Connor, Carson McCullers or Joseph Conrad. He has taught translation, interpretation and creative writing at Pompeu Fabra University in Barcelona.

Cathy Rentzenbrink was born in Cornwall, grew up in Yorkshire, lived in London for twenty years, and has now moved back to Cornwall. She is the author of The Last Act of Love, which was a Sunday Times top ten bestseller of the year and was shortlisted for the Wellcome Prize and the Portico Prize. She followed this with A Manual for Heartache and her next book is called Dear Reader: The Comfort and Joy of Books and will be published in September 2020. Cathy presents The Bookseller podcast, writes a column for Prospect, reviews books for The Times, and speaks and writes regularly on life, death, love and literature. She is often to be found doing events in bookshops and libraries, at festivals, and in prisons. 

Shreela Ghosh was born in Shillong, India and lives in London. She has worked in the Arts for more than 30 years and in 2009, she became the founding director of the Freeword Centre in London which brings together people working in literature, literacy and free expression. For several years the International Translation Day conference was held at Freeword. Shreela continues to champion translators and promotes translating as a creative act. Between, 2011 – 2018, she was part of the British Council’s Global Arts senior management team. During this period, she felt privileged to live and work both in Dhaka, Bangladesh and in New Delhi, India. Shreela believes that novels are the best place to start if you want to understand another culture.

Professor Chris Morash is the Seamus Heaney Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College, Dublin. He has written books on Irish theatre history, Irish media history and Irish famine literature. Prior to his appointment to Trinity, Professor Morash worked in Maynooth University. He was the first chair of the Compliance Committee of the Broadcasting Authority of Ireland (2009-2014), and has been a Member of the Royal Irish Academy since 2007.

Previous International DUBLIN Literary Award winners:

2019: Idaho by Emily Ruskovich (USA)

2018: Solar Bones by Mike McCormack (Irish)

2017: A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa (Angolan), translated from the Portuguese 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 from the Spanish 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 from the Norwegian 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 from the French 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 the German by Michael Hofmann

1997: A Heart So White by Javier Marías (Spanish), translated from the Spanish by Margaret Jull Costa

1996: Remembering Babylon by David Malouf (Australian)