Milkman author wins €100,000 literary award

By Robbie Meredith
BBC News NI Education Correspondent

Image source, DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/Getty Images
Image caption,
Anna Burns won the Man Booker Prize in 2018

The Belfast-born writer Anna Burns has been awarded one of the world's most valuable literary prizes.

Her novel Milkman, set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, has won the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award.

The award comes with prize money of €100,000 (£90,288) making it the world's largest prize for a novel published in English.

Ms Burns was the first Northern Irish novelist to win that prize and is now the first to win the International Dublin Literary Award in its 25-year history.

Milkman is her third novel, but she has also written a novella called Mostly Hero.

It tells the story of an 18-year-old woman's coming-of-age in the 1970s and her experiences when she attracts the attention of a threatening older man.

Anna Burns was born in Belfast in 1962 but now lives in Sussex in England.

'Thank you Oldpark library'

In a virtual acceptance speech for the Dublin Literary Award, Ms Burns said winning it was "an extraordinary honour".

She also spoke about how important Belfast's libraries had been for her.

"I have prominent memories of my childhood Saturdays when I would go to the library with my aunt and we'd make good on our tickets and oftentimes not just our own," she said.

"There seemed to be a black market in library tickets when I was growing up.

"No-one seemed to have their own yet managed to go into the building with about three to five cards and come out with about nine to 15 books.

"So I thank too the lovely Oldpark library in north Belfast and Central Library in downtown Belfast, not just for playing a huge role in my reading life but for letting everybody away with being a different person from whom their library cards that week were saying they were."

The award is sponsored by Dublin City Council - Dublin's Lord Mayor Hazel Chu said that Milkman had beaten off competition from a very strong shortlist of novels by writers from Canada, France, India, Iran, Ireland, Poland, the UK and the USA.