“The Twin” gets this year’s IMPAC

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award surprises me this time every year when I bump into its announcement. Overwhelmed by beach-read lists and new summer books, I’m not watching for this literary award, let alone anticipating it. And yet it offers the largest prize money given for a single novel — a nice purse of 100,000 Euros ($123,000, according to the New York Times). Another unique factor, nominations for the IMPAC are made by libraries from around the world. This year’s shortlist of eight contenders included novels nominated by libraries in Russia, Austria, France, Hungary and Germany.

The 2010 IMPAC winner is The Twin, a debut novel by Dutch author Gerbrand Bakker. It’s the story of a young man named Helmer who long ago responsibly left his college studies to help run the family farm in the remote Dutch countryside after his twin brother was killed in a car accident. From the publisher’s website: “Ostensibly a novel about the countryside, The Twin is ultimately about the possibility or impossibility of taking life into one’s own hands. It chronicles a way of life that has resisted modernity, a world culturally apart yet laden with romantic longing.”

In a statement about The Twin, the IMPAC  judging panel said: “There are intriguing ambiguities, but no false notes. Nothing and no one is predictable, and yet we believe in them all: the regular tanker driver, the next door neighbour with her two bouncing children, and Jaap, the old farm labourer from the twins’ childhood who comes back to the farm in time for the last great upheaval, as Helmer finally takes charge of what is left of his own life.”

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is organized by Dublin (Ireland) City Libraries on behalf of the Dublin City Council and sponsored by IMPAC, an international management productivity company. It’s open to novels written in any language, provided the work has been translated and published in English. The 2010 award will be shared between the author Gerbrand Bakker and David Colmer, who translated The Twin from the original Dutch into English.