I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

Rooney and MacLaverty in International Dublin award shortlist


The 2019 International DUBLIN Literary Award, sponsored by Dublin City Council and managed by Dublin City Libraries, has announced its shortlist, which includes two novels by Irish authors, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney and Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty, as well as novels from France, Pakistan, the UK and the USA. The award is worth €100,000 to the winner. The novels are: Compass by Mathias Énard, History of Wolves by Emily Fridlund, Exit West by Mohsin Hamid, Midwinter Break by Bernard MacLaverty, Reservoir 13 by Jon McGregor, Conversations with Friends by Sally Rooney, Idaho by Emily Ruskovich, Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders, A Boy in Winter by Rachel Seiffert and Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie. The winner will be announced on June 12th. Twitter: @DublinLitAward Facebook: www.facebook.com/InternationalDublinLiteraryAward

Reviewing Midwinter Break in the Dublin Review of Books in May 2018, Carlo Gébler wrote:

As we age (I speak for myself here anyway) we get to know what kind of literature we care for. What I want are writers whose work presents me with characters who are frail, contrary, inadequate, self-serving, self-destructive, hopeless, hopeful, desperate, kindly, thoughtless, and all the other things that make people people, but without judgement, without prescription and in the round. And if a writer does all the above then I close their book thinking, “Yes, I know these characters as well as I know anyone living, and I like them in the way I like people in life, in a complex and qualified way. I know their faults and I know their strengths. I know their woes and I know their hopes. I know their truths and I know their lies. And most of all I know I am the same as them and they are the same as me: we are all leading similar lives of quiet desperation.”
This identification might be seen by some as troubling and disquieting; many readers will not wish to be reminded of their failures by the people they encounter on the page. Well indeed, but I am of the opinion that the only literature that counts is the literature that hurts, and this is literature that hurts, emphatically. It is also an unshowy, unfussy, emotionally truthful novel of the highest order and it comes highly recommended.

Alexandra Schwarz, reviewing Conversations with Friends in The New Yorker, wrote that the novel

glitters with talk, much of it between Frances, the novel’s narrator, and Bobbi, her best friend, two Trinity students supremely gifted in the collegiate sport of competitive banter. Observations, theories, and quips about the world fly between the friends like so many shuttlecocks in a conversation that never ends, because conversations, in our world of screens, don’t have to. They just change format, so that a discussion begun in person continues through texts or e-mails … [The] exchange … calls to mind another pair of brilliant Dublin students, Cranly and Stephen Dedalus, who stroll around in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, arguing over the Eucharist and apostasy. Cranly and Dedalus came of age in an Ireland riven by religious strife, Bobbi and Frances in an Ireland gutted by the 2008 financial collapse. Capitalism is to Rooney’s young women what Catholicism was to Joyce’s young men, a rotten national faith to contend with, though how exactly to resist capitalism, when it has sunk its teeth so deep into the human condition, remains an open question.