The prize is worth €100,000 and is the largest for a novel published in English. It will be split between Vasquez and his translator, Anne McLean, who receives €25,000.
Mr Vasquez, who was presented with the award at a ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House, spoke to the Irish Examiner about the honour he felt in joining an illustrious list of winners.
“It’s a prize I’ve followed,” he said. “The list of people who’ve won the prize — Orhan Pamuk, Colm Toibin, Colum McCann — these are people whose books I collect, so it’s great to be there.
“And the group of writers on the short list, these are people I respect. One of them, Andres Neuman, wrote one of the best novels I’ve read in recent years, Traveller of the Century.”
Two Irish writers were nominated for the prize — Donal Ryan with The Spinning Heart, and David Park with The Light of Amsterdam. The shortlist was completed by The Detour, by Gerbrand Bakker; Questions of Travel, by Michelle De Kretser; Absolution, by Patrick Flannery; A Death in the Family, by Karl Ove Knausgaard; The Garden of Evening Mists, by Tan Twan Eng; and Three Strong Women, by Marie NDiaye.
Four of the shortlisted works were translations, reflecting the international flavour of the prize, which is organised by Dublin City Libraries and draws nominations from libraries in 37 countries.
First published in Spanish in 2011, The Sound of Things Falling charts some of the worst years of Colombia’s narco-terrorist nightmare.
Born in 1973, Mr Vasquez came of age during the violent height of drug baron Pablo Escobar’s power, though his book charts the more subjective experience of living in society marred by violence.
“I realised that nobody had created a space to think about the moral, emotional consequences of all that,” said Mr Vasquez. “There was a family of literary novels dealing with this, but none of them had explored that aspect of growing up during this time, which is the idea of living with fear, living in a society in which unpredictable violence changes the way in which you relate to other people.”