Six novels have been shortlisted for the 2023 Dublin Literary Award, sponsored by Dublin City Council. Now in its 28th year, this award is the world’s most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English. The winning-author will get a cash prize of €100,000. For a translated book, the author will receive €75,000 and the translator, €25,000. Unlike other literary prizes, here the nominations are made by librarians and readers from a network of libraries around the world.
The 2023 Award winner will be chosen from a diverse and international shortlist which includes two novels in English and four novels in translation, from Croatian, French, Spanish, and German. The shortlist features authors who are American, Mexican, German, Croatian, and Canadian-Vietnamese.
This year’s jury comprises poets Gabriel Gbadamosi and Doireann Ní Ghríofa, translators Marie Hermet and Arunava Sinha, and author Sarah Moss. The winner will be announced on May 25 as part of International Literature Festival, Dublin. So, what can you expect to read if you read the 2023 Dublin Literary Award shortlist?
Cloud Cuckoo Land, Anthony Doerr
Constantinople, 1453: An orphaned seamstress and a cursed boy with a love for animals risk everything on opposite sides of a city wall to protect the people they love.
Idaho, 2020: An impoverished, idealistic kid seeks revenge on a world that’s crumbling around him. Can he go through with it when a gentle old man stands between him and his plans?
Unknown, Sometime in the Future: With her tiny community in peril, Konstance is the last hope for the human race. To find a way forward, she must look to the oldest stories of all for guidance.
Bound together by a single ancient text, these tales interweave to form a tapestry of solace and resilience and a celebration of storytelling itself. It is a tale of hope and of profound human connection.
The Trees, Percival Everett
When a pair of detectives from the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation arrive, they meet expected resistance from the local sheriff, his deputy, the coroner, and a string of racist White townsfolk. The murders present a puzzle, for at each crime scene there is a second dead body: that of a man who resembles Emmett Till. The detectives suspect that these are killings of retribution, but soon discover that eerily similar murders are taking place all over the country. Something truly strange is afoot. As the bodies pile up, the MBI detectives seek answers from a local root doctor who has been documenting every lynching in the country for years, uncovering a history that refuses to be buried.
Paradais, Fernanda Melchor, translated from the Spanish by Sophie Hughes
Inside a luxury housing complex, two misfit teenagers sneak around and get drunk. Franco Andrade, lonely, overweight, and addicted to porn, obsessively fantasises about seducing his neighbor – an attractive married woman and mother – while Polo dreams about quitting his gruelling job as a gardener within the gated community and fleeing his overbearing mother and their narco-controlled village. Each facing the impossibility of getting what he thinks he deserves, Franco and Polo hatch a mindless and macabre scheme.Paradais explores the explosive fragility of Mexican society – with its racist, classist, hyperviolent tendencies – and how the myths, desires, and hardships of teenagers can tear life apart at the seams.
Marzahn, Mon Amour, Katja Oskamp, translated from the German by Jo Heinrich
A woman approaching the “invisible years” of middle age abandons her failing writing career to retrain as a chiropodist in the suburb of Marzahn, once the GDR’s largest prefabricated housing estate, on the outskirts of Berlin. From her intimate vantage point at the foot of the clinic chair, she keenly observes her clients and co-workers, delving into their personal histories.
Love Novel, Ivana Sajko, translated from the Croatian by Mima Simić
Love in late capitalism: Ivana Sajko takes us into a war between kitchen and bedroom. He, an unemployed Dante scholar, is trying to change the world and write a novel. She, a passable actress, has given up her safe job at the theatre to care for their child. He is delirious, she is on edge. With the rent overdue and violence looming on all sides, the two of them circle one another in a dizzying dance towards the abyss.
Em, Kim Thúy, translated from the French by Sheila Fischman
In the midst of war, an ordinary miracle: an abandoned baby tenderly cared for by a young boy living on the streets of Saigon. The boy is Louis, the child of a long-gone American soldier. Louis calls the baby em Hồng, em meaning “little sister,” or “beloved.” Even though her cradle is nothing more than a cardboard box, em Hồng’s life holds every possibility.
Through the linked destinies of a family of characters, the novel takes its inspiration from historical events, from Operation Babylift, which evacuated thousands of biracial orphans from Saigon in April 1975, to the remarkable growth of the nail salon industry, dominated by Vietnamese expatriates all over the world. From the rubber plantations of Indochina to the massacre at My Lai, Kim Thúy sifts through the layers of pain and trauma in stories revealing transcendent moments of grace, and the invincibility of the human spirit.
Disclosure: Arunava Sinha is the editor of the Books and Ideas section of Scroll.