It was announced on Thursday that acclaimed Irish novelist Anne Enright has been chosen as the first ever Fiction Laureate for Ireland. The decision was made by the Arts Council of Ireland some three months ago, but was made public only this week.
The list of 34 potential Laureates included many of the luminaries of the Irish literary scene, including Edna O’Brien, Roddy Doyle, Emma O’Donoghue and Kevin Barry. But it was the 52 year-old Dublin native who was selected for this prestigious role.
Anne Enright has received many accolades during her twenty five years as a published novelist, but it was when her fourth novel ‘The Gathering’ won the 2007 Booker Prize that Enright cemented her position as a leading Irish writer. Her follow-up novel ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ won the 2012 Carnegie Medal for Fiction and was shortlisted for the 2012 Orange Prize for Fiction (now the Bailey’s Prize).
The fact that Enright has managed to achieve success both at home and abroad was crucial in her appointment to this three year position, as she will be the public face of Irish fiction until the end of 2018. Along with the expected public appearances and engagements, Enright will deliver an annual lecture related to Irish literature and teach creative writing at University College Dublin and New York University for the next three years as part of her new role. Taoiseach (Prime Minister) Enda Kenny called the bestowing of the Fiction Laureate title as “the highest honour [sic]” the state can give to a novelist.
The Laureate was chosen by a panel of six judges, chaired by Paul Muldoon, comprised of three Irish judges and three from abroad, including the New Yorker’s Fiction editor Deborah Treisman. The judges were unanimous in their decision to appoint Enright to the role.
Ireland is the first country to appoint a Fiction Laureate, a signifier of the esteem that the Irish people and Irish state have in supporting and promoting Ireland’s long, rich literary history. As per the Arts Council, the “Laureate for Irish Fiction will engage in a number of major public events per annum, with the primary objective of promoting and encouraging greater engagement with Irish literature”. The position allows the Laureate to curate her own public programme, and Enright has decided to focus on the development of the short story form at home and in translation of Irish works into English for dissemination abroad.