International Literature Festival Dublin 2020: All you need to know

The International Literature Festival Dublin (ILFD) is an event, which began in 1998, held annually during the spring. This year, due to the global pandemic situation, the organizers have decided to postpone it until autumn.


The 2020 Edition

Specifically, it started last week, on the 22nd October and finished yesterday, October 28th. As we can read on its website, it gathers the finest writers in the world to debate, provoke, delight and enthral through readings, discussions, debates, workshops, performance and screenings. The festival is not specialized in a single genre but is a hybrid between poetry, fiction and non-fiction writing, song lyrics, theater scripts and film scripts. For all of these reasons, it is a great opportunity to give visibility to new talents, nationally and internationally. 

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ILA, 25th birthday

During the festival, The International Literary Award also takes place. This year, in addition, it has coincided with its 25th birthday. This award is considered the world’s most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English. The winner receives a prize of €100.000. It is sponsored solely by Dublin City Council and it aims to promote good quality literature. The characteristic that differentiates it from the other awards is that the books are nominated by libraries in major cities throughout the world (Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Jamaica, New Zealand, Poland, the UK and the USA) and it is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality.

The Booklist

The characteristics that a novel must have to be eligible to win the 2020 award are: it must have been published in English during 2018 or, in another language between 2009 and 2018, and also, have an English translation published between 2009 and 2018. All of these requirements ensure that the winning project has a track record and a bright future to come. This way, the result of celebrating culture is promotion, growth and protection of the tradition of a country and its citizens.

Of the 156 novels that have been nominated, 10 have been shortlisted. This list is made up of the titles:

These titles has been chosen by the 6 judges: Niall MacMonagle, Irish editor and columnist; Zoé Strachan, Scottish author and editor; Yannick Garcia, Catalan writer and translator; Cathy Rentzenbrink, a Sunday Times top ten bestseller of the year writer; Shreela Ghosh, Indian-born translator and champion of the novel; and Chris Morash, Professor of Irish Writing at Trinity College Dublin. The prize, as we have mentioned, is € 100.000, but if it has been translated, the author receives € 75.000 and the translator € 25.000. 

As Lord Mayor of Dublin Hazel Chu said: “It’s more important than ever that Dublin City Council does its best to support the Arts in such challenging times and the International Dublin Literary Award is a huge statement of encouragement for writers”. 

The winner: Milkman

Milkman is, as all the judges and librarians comment, a mirror that reflects a society impregnated by political and social conflict, but also knows how to value the importance of the subject in it. More specifically, from the young and curious look of a teenage girl. Most people have defined it as energetic and subversive, and have also highlighted its narrative style: “Reading while walking,” “The reader becomes the world of the book.” The main setting of the novel is an unnamed Belfast town during the Troubles, and the main themes it deals with are: religious-political conflict, individuality versus the collective, patriarchal oppression and the value of truth. 

Milkman was published to critical acclaim in 2018 and went on to win the Man Booker Prize in that same year. The author, Anna Burns, was born in Belfast, in 1962. She has written the novels No Bones, Little Constructions, Mostly Hero and Milkman. All of them have a strong political tendency and deal with issues of social disruption. The author knows how to enhance everyday life through crudeness and irony. Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland and the fourth woman to claim the award in its 25-year history, which adds even more value to it. 

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In her speech she concluded that she was very excited because of her victory but above all by the importance that libraries had had in her life: “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.” 

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Judit Sadurni
Judit Sadurni

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