FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
The winner of the 10th International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award (2005), the world’s richest literary prize for a single work of fiction published in English, was announced today by the Lord Mayor of Dublin Councillor Michael Conaghan at 11.30 am in City Hall, Dublin.
The winner of the Award is The Known World by Edward P. Jones (Amistad an imprint of HarperCollins). The winner was presented with 100,000 Euro from the Chairman of IMPAC Dr. James B. Irwin and specially commissioned Waterford Crystal trophy from the Lord Mayor of Dublin.
The International panel of judges chose The Known World from an international shortlist of ten novels.
The Known World begins with the death, at the age of 31, of Henry Townsend, a black farmer in Manchester County, the largest county in antebellum Virginia. Among the property bequeathed to his widow are 13 women, 11 men and 9 children - for Henry, once a slave, was an owner of slaves himself. From the foundation of this extraordinary situation - one with factual parallels, though Manchester County is a fictional territory - Edward P. Jones has created a richly imagined novel, in which a multitude of moral contradictions are revealed and explored.
Henry aspires to be "a better master than any white man he had ever known." This grotesque and self-defeating ambition sunders him irrevocably from his father, Augustus, a man who was obliged to buy his own freedom, and that of his wife and son, from the wealthy William Robbins, who has then become the mentor to Henry, his former groom. Such complex interrelationships form the essential fabric of The Known World, and almost every relationship is mired in ethical confusion. When Caldonia, Henry's widow, takes a slave as a lover, she worries that she is committing an offence against the rightful order of things. The unswervingly legalistic Robbins has a black mistress whom he loves more than he loves his wife, and fathers two adored children with her. A high-minded white sheriff, though repelled by slavery, is nonetheless committed to a role that obliges him to track down runaway slaves, a task for which he employs men who, as destitute as the slaves, often find themselves in sympathy with their quarry.
Interweaving a multiplicity of narratives and clearly defined voices with extraordinary skill, Jones loops backwards and forward from the day of Henry's death, in prose that is generally measured and restrained, but with passages of intense lyricism and outbursts of casual savagery. Vividly conceived and profoundly humane, The Known World is a remarkable re-creation of a world we might have thought we already knew.
The other shortlisted titles were:
Henry Townsend, a black farmer, boot maker, and former slave, has a fondness for Paradise Lost and an unusual mentor -- William Robbins, perhaps the most powerful man in antebellum Virginia's Manchester County. Under Robbins's tutelage, Henry becomes proprietor of his own plantation -- as well as of his own slaves. When he dies, his widow, Caldonia, succumbs to profound grief, and things begin to fall apart at their plantation: slaves take to escaping under the cover of night, and families who had once found love beneath the weight of slavery begin to betray one another. Beyond the Townsend estate, the known world also unravels: low-paid white patrollers stand watch as slave "speculators" sell free black people into slavery, and rumours of slave rebellions set white families against slaves who have served them for years.
Ranging seamlessly between the past and future and back again to the present, The Known World weaves together the lives of freed and enslaved blacks, whites, and Indians -- and allows all of us a deeper understanding of the enduring multidimensional world created by the institution of slavery.
Edward P. Jones won the PEN/Hemingway Award and was a finalist for the National Book Award for his debut collection of stories, Lost in the City. The Known World, his first novel, won the 2004 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
Agnès Desarthe was born in 1966 in Paris, where she now lives, with her husband - a filmmaker, and her two children. She has worked as a translator and has published numerous books for children and teenagers. She is the author of six novels, two of which, Five Photos of My Wife and Good Intentions, have been published in English to great acclaim. She received the Prix Inter 1996 for her novel Un Secret Sans Importance.
Rita Ann Higgins was born in 1955 in Galway, Ireland. She is the author of eight collections of poetry, the most recent being An Awful Racket 2001. Throw in the Vowels: New & Selected Poems is due in May 2005. She has edited Out the Clara Road: The Offaly Anthology and co-edited Word and Image: a collection of poems from Sunderland Women's Centre and Washington Bridge Centre and Fizz: poetry of resistance and challenge 2004 – a poetry anthology written by young people. Rita has also written three plays. She is a member of Aosdána.
Nino Ricci was born in Ontario, Canada and has taught both in Canada and abroad. He now lives in Toronto, where he writes full time. He is a past president of the Canadian Centre of International PEN, a writers’ human rights organization that works for freedom of expression. He is the author of four award-winning novels, Lives of the Saints, winner of the Governor General's Award for Fiction, In A Glass House, Where She Has Gone and, most recently, Testament.
Milan Richter is a poet, translator and publisher, born in Bratislava in 1948. He has published eight volumes of poetry including From Behind the Velvet Curtains, 1997, An Angel with Black Feathers, 2000 and The Wrecked Temple in Me, 2002. He was forbidden to publish for more than ten years and during this time he devoted all his creative activity to translation. He has served as chairman of Slovak Literary Translators Society and as vice-chairman of the Slovak PEN Centre. He has been director of the Jan Smrek International Literary Festival in Bratislava which he launched in 2000.
Eugene R. Sullivan (non-voting chair), is a former Chief Judge of a US Court of Appeals and brings a wealth of experience from sixteen years on the bench. His first novel, The Majority Rules, was published in January 2005. Judge Sullivan currently heads up a judicial consultancy group outside of Washington, D.C.
The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was established by Civic Charter in 1995 the Lord Mayor of Dublin is its Patron. Awarded annually, with the objective of promoting excellence in world literature, it is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the book has been published in English or English translation in the specified time period as outlined in the rules and conditions for the year. Since its inception, the award has operated as a partnership between IMPAC and Dublin City Council.
IMPAC (Improved Management Productivity and Control) is an international company with its headquarters based in Florida, USA. Founded in 1954 and headed up since 1972 by Dr. James B Irwin, Snr., IMPAC is a global leader in the productivity enhancement field, working on projects for major corporations and institutions in 65 countries around the world. IMPAC’s Dublin offices were established in 1988 with the development of its European regional training centre.
Dublin City Council
Dublin City Council is the municipal authority providing local government services for Dublin, the capital city of Ireland. First established in the year 1192, Dublin City Council provides a range of diverse services such as libraries, arts, planning, housing and fire services for the citizens of Dublin - to the highest international standards. Dublin City Public Libraries co-ordinates and steers the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award administrative processes involving more than 150 libraries worldwide.
Praise for The Known World
“Stunning….With hard-won wisdom and hugely effective understatement, Mr. Jones explores the unsettling contradiction-prone world of...the particulars of American slavery”.
“Exceptional….An achievement of epic scope and architectural construction…Among its many triumphs…is Jones’s transformation of a little-known footnote in history into a story that goes right to the heart of slavery.” – New York Times Book Review
“Flawless….You will have difficulty leaving The Known World on the last page”.
“Breathtaking…It is essential reading”. – Entertainment Weekly
“The best new work of American fiction to cross my desk in years….There are hints herein of Toni Morrison and Gabriel Garcia Marquez….and of Faulkner as well….Against all evidence to the contrary that American fiction has given us over the past quarter-century, The Known World affirms that the novel does matter, that it can still speak to us as nothing else can.” – JONATHAN YARDLEY, Washington Post Book World
"Jones's imagination is capacious, acute and sympathetic, and proves more than adequate to evoking the past. .....An author who writes about slavery without preaching to his readers or standing in judgement over his characters is rare, and with that restraint and broad imagination Edward P. Jones has produced an extraordinary piece of American fiction".
PRAISE FOR THE INTERNATIONAL IMPAC DUBLIN LITERARY AWARD
"In the brief period since 1996 the IMPAC (Dublin) Award has achieved an unassailable reputation among the world's great literary prizes, for the quality of its judges, its shortlist, its winners. As the first of those winners I am happy to find myself, after ten years, in such shining company." David Malouf- winner 1996
At a time when artistic timidity so often reaps the biggest rewards, both commercially and critically, there is something immensely heartening about the IMPAC (Dublin) Award. It's wonderful that the world's richest prize for a single work of fiction should be judged solely on the criterion of literary merit - eschewing the political considerations which sometimes predominate in more highly-publicised book awards. Nicola Barker – winner 2000
It was a great honor to receive the IMPAC Dublin Prize and a great joy to go to Dublin to get it....Orhan Pamuk – winner 2003
"la particularité de ce prix est qu'il est unique ; son mode de sélection et d'attribution est très judicieux et juste. L'écrivain qui remporte l'Impac est doublement heureux ; il est distingué et surtout il est reconnu de manière internationale et objective. Ce prix est vraiment exceptionnel. Non seulement il m'a honoré mais aussi il m'a apporté une belle confiance en mon travail." - Tahar Ben Jelloun Lauréat 2004.