The Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award was awarded to Claire Keegan for the French translation of Keegan’s novel, Ce genre de petites choses (Small Things like These). The award was presented by Ekaterini Simopoulou, Greek ambassador to Ireland. Prof Clíona Ní Riordáin of the Université Sorbonne-Nouvell, then moderated a discussion with Keegan. They were joined by Sabine Wespieser, Keegan’s French publisher, and Keegan’s translator, Jacqueline Odin. The award ceremony took place on Zoom.
The Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award highlights the role of French translation in transmitting the values of La Francophonie. The prize is awarded annually to an Irish writer recently published in French and to their French translator. The prize is awarded by the 26 embassies in Ireland representing the International Organisation of La Francophonie (IOF), in partnership with Literature Ireland, the national organisation in Ireland for the international promotion of Irish literature, and the Alliance Française in Dublin.
The jury was made up of the 26 ambassadors of the following countries, all members of the International Organisation of La Francophonie: Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Canada, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Egypt, Estonia, France, Georgia, Greece, Hungary, South Korea, Latvia, Lithuania, Malta, Mexico, Morocco, Poland, Romania, Slovak Republic, Switzerland, Ukraine, United Arab Emirates and Ireland’s Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade.
Keegan’s new novel was first published in French. The original English work, Small Things like These, will be published by Faber & Faber in October. Publisher Alex Bowler says: “An exquisite wintery parable, Claire Keegan’s long-awaited return tells the story of a simple act of courage and tenderness, in the face of conformity, fear and judgement. To read it is to be deeply touched by hope and by the sheer storytelling brilliance of one of Ireland’s great writers.”
The other shortlisted titles were:
Kevin Barry, Dernier bateau pour Tanger / Night Boat to Tangiers
Mary Costello, La Capture / The River Capture
Colum McCann, Apeirogon
Speaking of the Francophonie-Literature Ireland partnership, Sinéad Mac Aodha, director of Literature Ireland, said “Literature Ireland builds relationships between Ireland’s literature and the world, primarily through translation. The Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ award highlights the role of French translation in transmitting the values of the Francophonie and of cultural and linguistic exchanges in particular, so this is a very natural and important partnership for us. I should like to congratulate Claire Keegan and her French translator of long-standing, Jacqueline Odin, on winning this prestigious award for Ce genre de petites choses which has been so expertly published by Sabine Wespieser Éditeurs in Paris. We understand this to be the first of many translations of Claire’s new book and look forward to seeing the book read and enjoyed right across the world, from China to Argentina.”
Writer Claire Keegan wins €25,000 Davy Byrnes Award
CLAIRE KEEGAN was announced the winner of the €25,000 Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award 2009, at a presentation in the Dublin pub made famous by Joyce.
Keegan’s winning short story, Foster , was chosen from a shortlist of six writers by American fiction writer Richard Ford. Ford was not present, but Caroline Walsh, Literary Editor of The Irish Times , read from his winning citation, in which he praised the writer’s “sparkling talent”.
“Foster puts on display an imposing array of formal beauties at the service of a deep and profound talent. It tells a conceivably simple story – a young child given up to grieving foster parents and then woefully wrested home again.
“Claire Keegan makes the reader sure that there are no simple stories, and that art is essential to life.”
Ford wrote of Keegan’s “thrilling” instinct for the right words and her “patient attention to life’s vast consequence and finality”.
Walsh presented the award, organised by literary magazine The Stinging Fly and administered by Declan Meade, in association with The Irish Times , and sponsored by Davy Byrnes.
Accepting the prize, Keegan (41) told the thronged room that on the day of the February deadline to submit entries, it snowed in Wexford, where she lives, and she couldn’t get her car out to go to the post office. Thus she walked across the snowy fields until she found a postbox, and had dropped the envelope into it before belatedly tormenting herself by wondering how the postman was going to collect it that day. But clearly the Wexford postmen are undaunted by a few snowflakes, and her story duly made it to Dublin in time.
What will she do with her winnings? “I might buy a new desk,” she confessed modestly. “I have two sort of half-desks taped together at the moment, so I might go mad and buy a new one.”
Keegan, whose rural upbringing on a Wicklow farm has consistently informed her sensibility as a writer, has published two collections of short stories, Antarctica (1999) and Walk the Blue Fields (2007). She studied at Loyola University in New Orleans, the University of Wales, and Trinity College Dublin. Among her many previous awards are the Macaulay Fellowship, The Rooney Prize for Irish Literature, and the William Trevor Prize, judged by William Trevor himself.
Runners-up Mary Leland, Molly McCloskey, Eoin McNamee, Kathleen Murray, and Susan Stairs were each presented with €1,000. The competition attracted an entry of more than 800 stories, 30 of which were selected as a longlist for Ford to adjudicate.
This is the second time Davy Byrnes has sponsored the competition: the first was in 2004, and the winner on that occasion, Anne Enright, has since won the Man Booker Prize.
This article appears in the print edition of the Irish Times.