January 30, 2015
The first Laureate for Irish Fiction: Anne Enright
by Kirsten Reach
Poets laureate are old news. Ireland has just announced its first fiction laureate. And, no brainer, it’s Anne Enright.
Enright will take on this role for three years, earning a total of €150,000 in stipends over that time. She will teach one semester at University College Dublin and one at New York University, deliver a lecture each year, and take part in a few public events. The role, developed by the Arts Council with support from those two universities and The Irish Times, is meant to encourage people in the country and abroad to engage with fiction from Ireland.
Enright won the Booker Prize in 2007 for her novel The Gathering, and has written many titles you probably recognize like The Forgotten Waltz. She was born in Dublin in 1962. She’s a graduate of Trinity College and a former producer and director at RTÉ. Before turning her attention to writing full-time in 1992, she was also an actress.
Her short stories have appeared in the New Yorker, Granta and The Paris Review. Beyond the Booker, she has received the Davy Byrnes Irish Writing Award (in 2004), and the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature (for her first book, in 1991). In May 2015, her next novel will be published, titled The Green Road.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny delivered the official announcement and said, “Anne Enright’s eloquent and powerful writing, fiercely individual voice and unyielding commitment to her craft combined to make her the pre-eminent choice.” Thirty-four authors were under consideration, but the decision by the judges was unanimous.
In an interview with Miranda Popkey of The Paris Review Daily, Enright said:
I don’t write about Ireland so much as from Ireland. I am keenly aware of the Irish tradition and I’m very happy to take what I can from it, but it’s also quite important to push against it. We’re all helplessly local writers. I did think that the economic boom and bust had a universal application, or at least in the Western world. I’m just updating that old trope—taking the parish pump and turning it into a story for everyone else.
Kirsten Reach is an editor at Melville House.