December 20, 2013

Ireland will have its own Literature Laureate in 2014


Beckett: Sad because he doesn't get a look in.

Beckett: sad because he doesn’t get a look in.

Irish literature will have its own Laureate from 2014. The Art Council of Ireland, together with University College Dublin and New York University will give one Irish writer the title, and he or she will be awarded €150,000 (which is £126,500) over three years. In exchange for the title and funding, the author will be expected to “promote [Irish] literature around the world and inspire the public to engage with the best Irish fiction”, the Guardian reports.

In a way, it’s surprising no such title has existed up until now, Ireland having such a rich literary heritage that includes four Nobel Prize winners (William Butler Yeats, Samuel Beckett, George Bernard Shaw and Seamus Heaney) and two giants on each end of Modernism — Laurence Sterne and James Joyce. Contemporary Irish writers include Colum McCann, Colm Tóibín, Anne Enright, and emerging writers such as Keith Ridgway.

According to a statement issued by the Irish Arts Council, the Irish Laureate will be kept very busy:

The Laureate will have a three-year term. Over the period, he or she will teach creative writing to students at University College Dublin and New York University, will spend time developing his or her own work, and will participate in a number of major, public events and promotions.

The organisers hope that the Laureateship will do important work in raising the profile of Irish writing both at home and abroad, as well as encouraging a new generation of Irish writers. Pat Moylan, Chairwoman of the Arts Council commented that the Laureateship represents “a milestone for Irish literature and will place Irish writing at the forefront of global public thought.”

The Arts Council will now get to work coordinating a nomination process, taking in suggestions from the literary community and national organisations; a judging panel will whittle down the final shortlist to one writer of literary fiction, who will become the first ever Irish Laureate.




Zeljka Marosevic is the former managing director of Melville House UK.