Winning literary prize makes novelist Sebastian Barry ‘feel 12 again’

Novelist Sebastian Barry has won the prestigious Walter Scott literary prize for a second time.

The Irish author first won the €29,000 award in 2012 and has claimed it again this year with his novel Days Without End.

First awarded in 2010, the Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction is named after the inventor of the historical fiction genre.

It is open to books published in the previous year in Ireland, the UK, or the Commonwealth — and previous winners include Hilary Mantel, Andrea Levy, and Robert Harris.

Reflecting the subtitle of Scott’s famous work Waverley: Tis Sixty Years Since, the majority of the shortlisted books’ storylines must have taken place at least 60 years ago.

Mr Barry said: “It’s difficult to itemise my simple childish joy at receiving this prize; that the judges did all this work to make a 61-year-old man feel 12 again.

“It seems to me that the prize itself has not only boosted and bolstered the historical novel, but also has begun to redefine it.”

Days Without End tells the story of two young men during the founding of modern America in the mid-19th century.

It also won the Costa Book Prize this year, the second time Mr Barry has collected the award.

The Walter Scott judging panel said: “Our decision to award Sebastian Barry’s Days Without End was one of the hardest the Walter Scott Prize has ever had to make.

“With all seven books on the shortlist having strong supporters on the judging panel who championed their cause in a protracted and passionate debate about the nature and purpose of historical fiction, the very books themselves seemed to fight tooth and nail for the accolade.

“Eventually, Days Without End took the lead, for the glorious and unusual story; the seamlessly interwoven period research; and above all for the unfaltering power and authenticity of the narrative voice, a voice no reader is likely to forget.

“We commend all the authors of this year’s shortlist for their wonderful and important books. What a hard choice it was.

“But we are delighted to declare Days Without End the winner of the eighth Walter Scott Prize for Historical Fiction — and Sebastian Barry the first writer to win the Prize twice.”


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