Irish author Anna Burns has won the 2020 International DUBLIN Literary Award, sponsored by Dublin City Council, for her novel Milkman (published by Faber & Faber and Graywolf Press). With prize money of €100,000, the Award is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Anna Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland and the fourth woman to claim the prestigious award in its 25-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 on the morning of Thursday the 22nd October at a special online event as part of the International Literature Festival Dublin which runs online until Oct 28th. The announcement was delivered from the Gravity Bar at the Guinness Storehouse in Dublin, 43 metres above ground level, as well as the Irish Embassy, London, where speakers and interviews had been filmed at an earlier date (before newly announced level 5 restrictions). The award is usually presented by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of Dublin City Council in the Mansion House each year, however due to the pandemic the Award organisers were unable to invite the winner to travel to Dublin from her home in England for the ceremony. On this occasion, Ambassador of Ireland to the United Kingdom, Mr Adrian O’Neill, was delighted to present Irish author Anna Burns with her award.
Commenting on her win, Anna Burns said;
‘What an honour. I’m thrilled to bits and am about to break into my sevens with the excitement of it all! This is an extraordinary honour – especially given the fantastic list I find myself on. I thank the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, and Dublin City Council for being the patron and the host of this generous award. Also I salute them for representing Dublin’s position at the cultural heart of world wide literature’
Anna went on to praise libraries and talk about how much they meant to her as a child in Belfast. She said: ‘ To go from being a wee girl haggling over library cards with my siblings, my friends, neighbours, my parents and my aunt, to be standing here today receiving this award is phenomenal for me, and I thank you all again for this great honour.’
Speaking at the winner announcement, Lord Mayor and Patron of the Award, Hazel Chu, remarked:
‘What a wonderful book and massively talented writer! The judges should be very proud of their work as it wasn’t easy to choose a winner from among this very strong shortlist. I was so delighted to open that envelope and see Milkman written on the card! I wish to extend huge congratulations to Anna Burns.’
Anna Burns was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She is the author of three novels, No Bones, Little Constructions and Milkman, and of the novella Mostly Hero. No Bones won the Winifred Holtby Memorial Prize and was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Milkman won the 2018 Man Booker Prize. She lives in East Sussex, England.
In an unnamed city, where to be interesting is dangerous, an eighteen-year-old woman has attracted the unwanted and unavoidable attention of a powerful and frightening older man, ‘Milkman’. In this community, where suggestions quickly become fact, where gossip and hearsay can lead to terrible consequences, what can she do to stop a rumour once it has started? Milkman is persistent, the word is spreading, and she is no longer in control.
Borrow the Book
Copies of the winning novel, the shortlisted books and the full list of novels longlisted for the 2020 award are available to borrow from Dublin’s public libraries and from public libraries around Ireland. Readers can also borrow the winning novel on BorrowBox: eBooks and eAudiobooks for limited periods by way of digital loans. Further details about the Award and the winning novel are available on the Award website at www.dublinliteraryaward.ie.
The 2020 judging panel, which is led by Professor Chris Morash of Trinity College Dublin, and includes Yannick Garcia, Shreela Ghosh, Niall MacMonagle, Cathy Rentzenbrink and Zoë Strachan commented:
‘Reading this book is an immersive experience. Once experienced, Anna Burns’ Milkman will never be forgotten. The reader becomes the world of the book. There was simply no other novel like it on the longlist. Many novels come and go but this tour-de-force is a remarkable achievement. We read it with huge admiration and gratitude. When we finished it, we felt enriched, informed, wiser.
A description of what this original book is about fails to do it justice. Its brilliance lies in its compelling, questioning voice, its strong individual, resilient narrator, its evocation of place, its threatening and sinister atmosphere, its description of what Burns calls lives of ‘nervous caution’.
Milkman soon emerged as a frontrunner and naming it our eventual winner was a unanimous decision.’
Milkman was nominated by public libraries in the UK, USA and Germany, as well as Limerick City & County Libraries. The winning novel was chosen from a shortlist of 10 novels by writers from Canada, France, India, Iran, Ireland, Poland, the UK and the USA. Eight of this years shortlisted novels are by female authors.
Watch the Ceremony
You can watch the full 2020 Award Ceremony here:
You can watch Anna Burn’s acceptance speech here: