A 37-year-old writer whose publishing deal saved him from unemployment last night scooped a €15,000 literary prize.
Author Gavin Corbett won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award for his book, This is the Way, at the opening of the 42nd annual Listowel Writers’ Week.
The coveted award, solely for Irish writers, is the largest cash prize for fiction available.
Joining Mr Corbett on the shortlist were Lucy Caldwell, Claire Kilroy, Kathleen MacMahon, and Thomas O’Malley.
The winning entry, the writer’s second novel, tells the story of a modern-day Traveller hiding in Dublin from his people and their blood feuds and coming to terms with his inheritance.
Born in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, the author grew up in Dublin where he studied history at Trinity College. He recently moved back to Dublin from New York and had previously worked as a newspaper sub-editor.
He said it was the voice of a young Traveller that inspired his novel. It provided an interesting perspective from which to write about Ireland — “that of someone on the margins looking in”, he remarked in a recent interview.
He said many people regarded Travellers as a “reality of life”, not part of national culture.
“Sadly, many people in Ireland don’t see Travellers as having anything to give to the cultural life of the country, or any aspect of life.”
Mr Corbett himself has no family connection to the Traveller community.
Speaking at the presentation, Kerry Group corporate affairs director Frank Hayes said the award celebrated excellence in Irish fiction writing.
“This year’s shortlist included five exceptionally talented Irish writers whose works showcases the breadth of literary talent in Ireland,” he said.
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