The longlist of candidates nominated for the International Dublin Literary Award has been released. This year, there were 150 nominations from Asia, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North and South America, South Africa and the Middle East. The selections have to be either originally published in English or translated into English. Best of all, in my opinion, they are nominated by librarians.
I don’t know of any other venue where readers can get such a global view of novels recommended by enthusiasts who watch over a broad range of the old and new and who connect daily with readers, from beginning readers (of all ages) to the passionate, devoted readers. Their worldwide nominations therefore feel real to me, perhaps “thorough” would be a more appropriate word, because of their day-to-day lit lives. And because they submit from libraries all over the world, their nominations offer an opportunity to stretch oneself outside the reading borders of one’s own country. There are 6 Dutch novels, 5 German novels, 13 Australian and New Zealand novels, and 3 South African novels, to name a few. Among the 35 American novels on this list are the best-selling A Gentleman in Moscow and My Name Is Lucy Barton.
So how do you fathom such a large list for reading selections? You could pick a country. Or, you can do as I’ve done and cherry pick your way through the list. And so below are five I selected that I want to read, from Israel, Norway, France, Australia and New Zealand. I could’ve selected more, but I’m not even sure I’ll get to these five. I’m playing that game readers play by putting the books on the reading table and hoping I’ll get to them.
You can browse the full International Dublin Literary Award longlist on the award nominee page.
Judas by Amos Oz, translated from the original Hebrew by Nicholas de Lange
I borrowed this novel from my local library earlier this year, eager to read it, but other novels came first, and I returned it unread. Now is my second chance to enter what I’m thinking will be a compelling world of romance and history. Set in Jerusalem 1959, the story focuses on a young biblical scholar who finds employment as a caregiver for an old man in his home. Also in the house is a 40-something daughter of a deceased Zionist leader. From the book’s description: “At once an exquisite love story and a coming-of-age novel, Judas offers a surprising perspective on the state of Israel and the biblical tale from which it draws its title. This is Amos Oz’s most powerful novel in decades.” Judas was shortlisted for the recent Man Booker International Award.
The Island of Books by Dominique Fortier, translated from the French by Rhonda Mullins
I’m a sucker for literary novels set in monasteries. In this one, a grieving 15th century portrait painter takes refuge in a monastery on an island off the coast of France, where he’s given the task of copying a manuscript. From the book’s description: “His work slowly heals him and continues the tradition that had, centuries earlier, grown the monastery’s library into a beautiful city of books, all under the shadow of the invention of the printing press.” From the librarian’s recommendation: “Dominique Fortier offers here a very delicate and personal book, trying to catch the spirit of such a magnificent place as the Mont St-Michel. The novel is a tribute to books and freedom.”
The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn, translated from the Norwegian by Rosie Hedger
A woman leaves her television career and her partner to seek isolation on a remote fjord, where she takes a new job as a gardener and housekeeper. But the job isn’t what it seems and the 44-year-old man of the house not the old man she expected for her employer. From the book’s description: “As they await the return of his wife from her travels, their silent, uneasy encounters develop into a chilling, obsessive relationship, and it becomes clear that atonement for past sins may not be enough.” From the librarian’s recommendation: “The whole book is characterised by an uncomfortable and ominous tone and an exquisite writing style. It is dark, thrilling and captivating…”
The Dry by Jane Harper (Australian)
This mystery centers on Federal Agent Falk returning to his hometown to attend the funeral of his best friend, Luke. Twenty years before, Luke was the agent’s steadfast alibi in a murder case. From the book’s description: “As Falk reluctantly investigates to see if there’s more to Luke’s death than there seems to be, long-buried mysteries resurface, as do the lies that have haunted them.” From the librarian’s recommendation: “Some might call this a crime novel, set in a small drought-affected country town in rural Australia. But it becomes more than that; you can feel the crackle and the heat and the dust as you read it. … The author draws on desperation, on sins of the past, and the struggle to atone, quite beautifully. I couldn’t put the book down, (well I did, for one night, then finished it the next).”
The Museum of You by Carys Bray (New Zealand)
In this novel, a grieving girl plumbs treasures in the second bedroom of the family home to learn about her parents. From the book description: “Volume isn’t important, what she is looking for is essence; the undiluted bits: a collection of things that will tell the full story of her mother, her father and who she is going to be. But what you find depends on what you’re searching for.” From the librarian’s recommendation: “Bray is a perceptive and sensitive storyteller, her characters are convincing and Clover’s tale is one of optimism and unexpected humour.”