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Milkman delivers: Author Anna Burns first NI woman to win €100,000 prize

Her novel Milkman, which tells story of woman growing up in Troubles, branded 'tour-de-force'

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Honour: Author Anna Burns, winner of the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award for her novel Milkman

Honour: Author Anna Burns, winner of the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award for her novel Milkman

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Author Wendy Erskine, who won the Butler Literary Award

Author Wendy Erskine, who won the Butler Literary Award

Honour: Author Anna Burns, winner of the 2020 International Dublin Literary Award for her novel Milkman

Belfast-born author Anna Burns has become the first Irish woman to win the Dublin Literary Award for her novel Milkman.

The author has already bagged the 2018 Man Booker Prize and just last week, the Christopher Ewart-Biggs Literary award for her 2014 novel.

The judging panel said Milkman was a “unanimous decision” and praised the novel as a “tour-de-force” and a “remarkable achievement”.

Burns also becomes the first woman from Northern Ireland to receive the award in its 25-year history.

The €100,000 award, which is sponsored by Dublin City Council, is the most valuable annual prize for a single work of fiction published in English.

It receives its nominations from public libraries around the world, with Milkman nominated by public libraries in the UK, US and Germany, as well as Limerick City and County libraries.

The award was announced yesterday but due to the Covid-19 pandemic, Burns (58) was unable to travel from her home in England to Dublin for the ceremony.

She said it was an “extraordinary honour especially given the fantastic list she found herself on, adding that she was “thrilled to bits” with the “excitement of it all”.

“I thank the Lord Mayor of Dublin, Hazel Chu, and Dublin City Council for being the patron and the host of this generous award.

“Also I salute them for representing Dublin’s position at the cultural heart of world wide literature,” she added.

Burns went on to praise libraries and talk about how much they meant to her as a child in Belfast, adding: “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 today receiving this award is phenomenal for me, and I thank you all again for this great honour.

“Libraries have always been important to me.

“I have prominent memories of my childhood Saturdays when I would go to the library with my aunt.

“There seemed to be a black market in library tickets when I was growing up, nobody seemed to have their own but people would have three to five cards and come out with nine to 15 books” she added.

A tale of sexual coercion, Milkman is set during the late 1970s and tells the story from the perspective of an 18-year-old girl.

The book charts the course of the teenager, with an ambivalent attitude to the paramilitary violence around her, struggling to combat unwanted sexual advances and the pernicious power of gossip.

It has been praised for a unique first-person voice rich in the conversational language of Northern Ireland and its handling of universal problems facing women and outsiders.

Ms Burns has previously spoken out about the difficulties of growing up in the Ardoyne area of north Belfast during the Troubles.

Drinking from an early age, she left Belfast in 1987 to study Russian in London. After dropping out of the course she made the choice to embark on a 12-step programme.

Meanwhile, east Belfast author Wendy Erskine has just won the Butler Literary Award 2020 for emerging literary writers in Ireland with Sweet Home.

The debut collection tells the stories of characters in the city as they struggle to maintain control in an often cruel world.

Belfast Telegraph


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