Northern Irish Writer Anna Burns Wins Dublin Literary Award

Irish author Anna Burns has won the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award, for her fierce novel Milkman.

This award stands as one of the world’s most valuable literary prizes, presenting Burns with a colossal £100,000. In fact, Burns is the first writer from Northern Ireland and the fourth woman to win the prize since it was established 25 years ago. It is a staggering achievement, particularly as the novel previously won the esteemed Man Booker prize in 2018.

Milkman is the story of an unnamed, eighteen-year-old woman, who attracts the unwanted attention of a strange, older man, called the ‘milkman’. The narrator recounts her experiences navigating through a minefield of gossip and political intrigue, in a town where being different is dangerous. Centred euphemistically around the 1970s ‘Troubles’ in Belfast, Burns captures the essence of a politically divided and opressive community.

The award receives its nominations from libraries around the world, deeming it unique in its coverage of international fiction. Milkman was nominated by libraries in the UK, USA and Germany, as well as Limerick City and County Libraries.

Burns beat the likes of Olga Tokarczuk, Tayari Jones and Pat Barker, amongst a shortlist dominated by women. In her acceptance speech, she claimed winning the prize is “an extraordinary honour”, as she subsequently expressed the importance libraries have held in fuelling her passion for literature.

She continued by claiming: “To go from being a wee girl haggling over library cards with my siblings, my friends, neighbours, my parents and my aunt, to be standing here receiving this award is phenomenal for me, and I thank you all again for this great honour.”

Also speaking at the award ceremony was Lord Mayor and Patron of the Award, Hazel Chu, who remarked: “What a wonderful book and massively talented writer! The judges should be very proud of their work as it wasn’t easy to choose a winner from among this very strong shortlist. I was so delighted to open that envelope and see Milkman written on the card! I wish to extend huge congratulations to Anna Burns.”

Words by Sylvia O’Hara

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