Annal: 2009 International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award

Results of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award in the year 2009.

Book:Man Gone Down

Man Gone Down: A Novel

Michael Thomas

Evoking the work of great American masters such as Ralph Ellison, but distinctly original, Michael Thomas’ first novel is a beautifully written, insightful, and devastating account of a young black father of three in a biracial marriage trying to claim a piece of the American Dream. On the eve of the unnamed narrator’s thirty-fifth birthday, he finds himself broke, estranged from his white Boston Brahmin wife and three children, and living in the bedroom of a friend’s six-year-old child. With only four days before he’s due in to pick up his family, he must make some sense out of his life. Alternating between his past—as an inner city child bused to the suburbs in the 1970’s—and a present where he is trying mightily to keep his children in private schools, we learn of his mother’s abuses, his father’s abandonment, and the best and worst intentions of a supposedly integrated America.  This is an extraordinary debut about what it feels like to be pre-programmed to fail in life—and the urge to escape that sentence.

Book:Animal's People

Animal's People

Indra Sinha

Ever since he can remember, Animal has gone on all fours, the catastrophic result of what happened on That Night when, thanks to an American chemical company, the Apocalypse visited his slum. Now not quite twenty, he leads a hand-to-mouth existence with his dog Jara and a crazy old nun called Ma Franci, and spends his nights fantasising about Nisha, the daughter of a local musician, and wondering what it must be like to get laid.

When a young American doctor, Elli Barber, comes to town to open a free clinic for the still suffering townsfolk—only to find herself struggling to convince them that she isn’t there to do the dirty work of the ‘Kampani’—Animal plunges into a web of intrigues, scams and plots with the unabashed aim of turning events to his own advantage.

Compellingly honest, entertaining and entirely without self-pity, Animal’s account lights our way into his dark world with flashes of pure joy—from the very first page all the way to the story’s explosive ending.

Book:The Archivist's Story

The Archivist's Story: A Novel

Travis Holland

Moscow, 1939. In the recesses of the infamous Lubyanka prison, a young archivist is sent to authenticate an unsigned story confiscated from one of the many political prisoners there. The writer is Isaac Babel. The great author of Red Cavalry is spending his last days forbidden to write, his final manuscripts consigned to the archivist, Pavel Dubrov, who will ultimately be charged with destroying them. The emotional jolt of meeting Babel face-to-face leads to a reckless decision: he will save the last stories of the author he reveres, whatever the cost.

From the margins of history, Travis Holland has woven a tale of the greatest power. Pavel’s private act of courage in the face of a vast bureaucracy of evil invigorates a life that had lost its meaning, even as it guarantees his almost certain undoing. A story of suspense, courage, and unexpected avenues of grace, The Archivist’s Story is ultimately an enduring tribute to the written word.

Book:The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao: A Novel

Junot Díaz

This is the long-awaited first novel from one of the most original and memorable writers working today.

Things have never been easy for Oscar, a sweet but disastrously overweight, lovesick Dominican ghetto nerd. From his home in New Jersey, where he lives with his old-world mother and rebellious sister, Oscar dreams of becoming the Dominican J. R. R. Tolkien and, most of all, of finding love. But he may never get what he wants, thanks to the fukú—the curse that has haunted the Oscar’s family for generations, dooming them to prison, torture, tragic accidents, and, above all, ill-starred love. Oscar, still waiting for his first kiss, is just its most recent victim.

Diaz immerses us in the tumultuous life of Oscar and the history of the family at large, rendering with genuine warmth and dazzling energy, humor, and insight the Dominican–American experience, and, ultimately, the endless human capacity to persevere in the face of heartbreak and loss. A true literary triumph, The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao confirms Junot Diaz as one of the best and most exciting voices of our time.

Book:The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles

The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles

Roy Jacobsen, Don Bartlett

It is 1939, and the Soviets have invaded Finland. As everyone else in his village flees, burning down their houses in their wake, Timo remains behind. He is unable to imagine life anywhere else, unable to conceive of doing anything else besides felling the trees near his home. As Finnish forces prepare to take on the brunt of the Soviet army and Timo watches on, the citizens of a nation find themselves dragged into conflict and desperate to find a path back home. Filled with unexpected bravery, feats of survival, and the powerful and forbidden friendships forged during war, this is a powerful novel about the struggle to belong.

Book:The Indian Clerk

The Indian Clerk: A Novel

David Leavitt

The brilliant new novel from one of our most respected writers—his most ambitious and accessible to date.

On a January morning in 1913, G. H. Hardy—eccentric, charismatic and, at thirty-seven, already considered the greatest British mathematician of his age—receives in the mail a mysterious envelope covered with Indian stamps. Inside he finds a rambling letter from a self-professed mathematical genius who claims to be on the brink of solving the most important unsolved mathematical problem of all time. Some of his Cambridge colleagues dismiss the letter as a hoax, but Hardy becomes convinced that the Indian clerk who has written it—Srinivasa Ramanujan—deserves to be taken seriously. Aided by his collaborator, Littlewood, and a young don named Neville who is about to depart for Madras with his wife, Alice, he determines to learn more about the mysterious Ramanujan and, if possible, persuade him to come to Cambridge. It is a decision that will profoundly affect not only his own life,…[more]

Book:Ravel

Ravel: A Novel

Jean Echenoz, Linda Coverdale

The last years of the great French composer’s life as envisioned by “the master magician of the contemporary French novel” (The Washington Post)

A bestseller in France, Ravel is a beguiling and original evocation of the last ten years in the life of a musical genius, written by the acclaimed novelist Jean Echenoz, winner of the Prix Goncourt. The book opens in 1927 as Maurice Ravel—dandy, eccentric, and curmudgeon—voyages across the Atlantic aboard the luxurious ocean liner the France to begin his triumphant grand tour across the United States, where he will travel aboard such fabled trains as the Zephyr, the Hiawatha, and the Sunset Limited, smoking his precious stash of Gauloises along the way.

Illuminated by flashes of Echenoz’s characteristically sly humor, Ravel is not just a delightfully quirky portrait of a famous musician coping with the ups and downs of his professional and personal life but a truly touching farewell to a dignified and lonely old man going reluctantly into the night.

Book:The Reluctant Fundamentalist

The Reluctant Fundamentalist: A Novel

Mohsin Hamid

At a café table in Lahore, a bearded Pakistani man converses with an uneasy American stranger. As dusk deepens to night, he begins the tale that has brought them to this fateful meeting…

Changez is living an immigrant’s dream of America. At the top of his class at Princeton, he is snapped up by the elite “valuation” firm of Underwood Samson. He thrives on the energy of New York, and his infatuation with elegant, beautiful Erica promises entry into Manhattan society at the same exalted level once occupied by his own family back in Lahore.

But in the wake of September 11, Changez finds his position in his adopted city suddenly overturned, and his budding relationship with Erica eclipsed by the reawakened ghosts of her past. And Changez’s own identity is in seismic shift as well, unearthing allegiances more fundamental than money, power, and maybe even love.

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