Irish novelist, journalist, and essayist, Colm Tóibín, is this year’s winner of a US lifetime achievement award that celebrates the power of literature to foster peace, social justice, and global understanding.
Dayton Literary Peace Prize officials named Tóibín, whose work has drawn from his native Ireland, his life as a gay man, and his travels as an international journalist, for the Richard C Holbrooke Distinguished Achievement Award.
It is named after the late US diplomat, who brokered the 1995 Bosnia peace accords, in Ohio.
Among Tóibín’s novels are The Master, depicting the life of the famed writer, Henry James; Brooklyn, a coming-of-age story about an Irish immigrant which was later made into an Oscar-nominated film; and the recent House Of Names, his reimagining of a Greek tragedy.
Dayton Literary Peace Prize Foundation co-chair, Sharon Rab, said Tóibín’s writings “remind us of shared humanity and the possibility of reconciliation or simply of understanding, which are the first steps to making peace”.
“Our (writers’) aim is to reach the reader’s imagination, have an effect on the nervous systems of other people,” Tóibín, 62, said in a statement in response to winning the award.
“Good sentences offer us a way to imagine life in all its strangeness and ambiguity and possibility, alert us to the power of the imagination to transform and transcend our nature, offer us a blueprint not only for who we are but for who we might be, who we might become.”
Previous winners include Studs Terkel, Taylor Branch, Gloria Steinem, and Elie Wiesel.
The award has a $10,000 (€8,700) cash prize.
Finalists for the Dayton Literary Peace Prize in fiction and non-fiction will be announced on September 13.
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