Every October I’m struck with wonder and joy as one more sextet of vibrant recent voices emerge on the Irish literary landscape. The Sunday Independent Newcomer of the 12 months Award turns a highlight on the superb writing talent our island annually produces. This 12 months’s list is as stimulating and diverse as ever.
n fiction there are debuts from Edel Coffey for her psychological thriller Breaking Point (Sphere), Aingeala Flannery together with her portrait of small-town life The Amusements (Sandycove), Catherine Prasifka’s coming-of-age novel None of that is Serious (Canongate Books) and Alice Ryan’s family drama There’s been a Little Incident (Head of Zeus).
Poetry is represented in Fiacre Ryan’s Speechless (Merrion Press) and is the primary title to be written by an Irish non-verbal autistic person. Finally in non-fiction, Sally Hayden investigates the migrant crisis in My Fourth Time, We Drowned (Fourth Estate).
These were announced at the revealing last Thursday of all of the shortlists for the An Post Irish Book Awards 2022. The venue, fittingly, was the GPO and the mood was very high. In any case it’s been three long years for the reason that literary community gathered corporeally to have fun our flourishing book industry.
For me, it’s like watching one other child grow up. Twenty years ago Aengus Fanning, late editor of this paper, and Derek Hughes of the previous eponymous book chain, conceived over coffee the thought of an awards ceremony. While I used to be merely the midwife who coaxed it into being, I’m hugely happy with the way it has developed and matured.
To look back is to see many ghosts. That inaugural 12 months, for instance, the chair of our judging panel Gay Byrne handed a crystal vase and a cheque for €5,000 to the winner John McGahern for, as I wrote then, “his extraordinarily powerful and evocative account of a 12 months within the lifetime of a lakeside community That They May Face the Rising Sun”.
Recent categories, awards and sponsors were added through the years. We honoured the greats — amongst them William Trevor, Edna O’Brien, John Banville, Maeve Binchy, Colm Tóibín, John Montague. Two presidents — Clinton and Higgins — made appearances to pay tribute to Seamus Heaney. The venues modified from Dublin Castle through Trinity, the Mansion House, the RDS and the Burlo to our current home, the Convention Centre, where this 12 months’s winners can be announced at a glamorous gala compered by Miriam O’Callaghan on November 23.
We’re now so grown up we even have our own television show. A one-hour special, hosted by Oliver Callan, can be broadcast on RTÉ One on December 7, exploring the six books and authors competing for the accolade of An Post Irish Book Awards Book of the 12 months 2022, culminating within the reveal of this 12 months’s overall winner.
As all the time, the general public can have their say by voting for his or her favourite title and all voters can be entered right into a prize draw to win one in every of five €100 National Book Token vouchers. Voting is now open at irishbookawards.ie until November 10.