The 2013 Judges’ Citation of City of Bohane

Kevin Barry’s Ireland of 2053 is a place you may not want to be alive in but you’ll certainly relish reading about. This is not a future of shiny technology but one in which history turns in circles and quirks an eyebrow at the idea of ‘progress’.  Barry reminds us that the stories of love and power, colliding in violence, have a dark inevitability – irresistible to every generation of storytellers whose greatest challenge is to make the old stories fresh. In City of Bohane he meets that challenge through his interweaving of the satisfyingly familiar with the dazzlingly inventive.  Logan Hartnett, Jenni Ching, the Gant, Immaculata  and all the extended characters in this layered tale stride or sashay across the pages,  recognisable in their outlines and yet unlike any other set of fictional characters in their past-meets-future vernacular and intriguing wardrobes and particularity.  Likeable characters wouldn’t survive a minute in Bohane, but compelling characters are in no short supply. In addition to the subversion of archetypes and serving up of what-you-want and playfulness and danger and humour the novel is also, in many places, quite wonderfully moving. None of this would be possible if not for the inspired language of the book which is its greatest triumph.