Mexican author Valeria Luiselli has won the 2021 DUBLIN Literary Award, sponsored by Dublin City Council, for her novel Lost Children Archive (published by 4th Estate (Harper Collins) in the UK and Vintage Books (Alfred A. Knopf) in the USA. With prize money of €100,000, the Award is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Valeria Luiselli is the first writer from Mexico and the fifth woman to claim the prestigious award in its 26 year history.
Uniquely, the Award receives its nominations from public libraries in cities around the globe and recognises both writers and translators. The winner was announced on Thursday the 20th May at a special online event, at the opening of the International Literature Festival Dublin, which runs until May 30th. Lord Mayor Hazel Chu made the announcement from Dublin, with the presentation to the winner taking place at the Irish Consulate in New York City, where Valeria Luiselli resides. Consul General Ciarán Madden, and previous winner of the DUBLIN Literary Award Colm Tóibín, were delighted to present Luiselli with her award on behalf of Dublin City Council. Irish author Colm Tóibín won the DUBLIN Literary Award in 2006 for his novel The Master.
Accepting her award, winner Valeria Luiselli spoke passionately about the importance of literature now more than ever:
‘I can say, without a hint of doubt, that without books – without sharing in the company of other writers’ human experiences – we would not have made it through these months. If our spirits have found renewal, if we have found strength to carry on, if we have maintained a sense of enthusiasm for life, it is thanks to the worlds that books have given us. Each time, we found solace in the companions that live in our bookshelves.’
CEO of Dublin City Council, Owen Keegan, said:
‘I wish to extend huge congratulations to Valeria Luiselli on winning the Dublin Literary Award. I’m immensely proud that Dublin City Council sponsors this international prize, which brings the literature of the world to Dublin, and it was especially important to be able to reach out to international library colleagues to make the Award happen this year.’
Valeria Luiselli was born in Mexico City and grew up in South Korea, South Africa and India. An acclaimed writer of both fiction and nonfiction, she is the author of the novels Faces in the Crowd and The Story of My Teeth, which won the 2016 LA Times Book Prize for Fiction; the essay collection Sidewalks; and Tell Me How It Ends: An Essay in Forty Questions. She is the winner of two Los Angeles Times Book Prizes and an American Book Award, and has twice been nominated for the National Book Critics Circle Award and the Kirkus Prize. She has been a National Book Foundation “5 Under 35” honoree and the recipient of a Bearing Witness Fellowship from the Art for Justice Fund. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, Granta, and McSweeney’s, among other publications, and has been translated into more than twenty languages. Lost Children Archive which won the 2020 Rathbones Folio Prize is her first novel written in English. She lives in New York City.
About Lost Children Archive
In Valeria Luiselli’s fiercely imaginative follow-up to the American Book Award-winning Tell Me How It Ends, an artist couple set out with their two children on a road trip from New York to Arizona in the heat of summer. As the family travels west, the bonds between them begin to fray: a fracture is growing between the parents, one the children can almost feel beneath their feet. Through ephemera such as songs, maps and a Polaroid camera, the children try to make sense of both their family’s crisis and the larger one engulfing the news: the stories of thousands of kids trying to cross the southwestern border into the United States but getting detained—or lost in the desert along the way. A breath-taking feat of literary virtuosity, Lost Children Archive is timely, compassionate, subtly hilarious, and formally inventive—a powerful, urgent story about what it is to be human in an inhuman world.
Borrow the Book
Copies of the winning title, the shortlisted novels and the full list of longlisted novels for the 2021 award are available to borrow from Dublin City libraries and from public libraries throughout Ireland. Readers can also borrow the winning novel on BorrowBox: eBooks and eAudiobooks for limited periods by way of digital loans. Further details about the Award and the winning novel are available on the Award website at www.dublinliteraryaward.ie
The 2021 Judging Panel, which is led by Professor Chris Morash of Trinity College Dublin, and includes Jan Carson, David James Karashima, Dr. Rita Sakr, Dr. Martín Veiga and Enda Wyley, commented:
‘While all of the books on this year’s Shortlist provided outstanding instances of what the novel can do in the twenty-first century, the Judges felt that one book in particular pushed the boundaries of contemporary fiction, while at the same time telling a compelling story. Valeria Luiselli’s Lost Children Archive manages to do many things at once. At its most basic level, it is the story of a couple and their children driving across the United States, from New York to the Southwest border with Mexico. The parents, who are sound recordists, want to make recordings of absences; she, of the children who have been lost crossing the border, he of the Native Americans who used to live in the area. However, woven into this framework are reflections on sound, on silence, a magic realist story read by the children, and artefacts, including an entire chapter made of Polaroid photographs. The result is a richly textured novel that reminds us that the novel is always capable of being pushed in new directions. As the title suggests, this is the novel as archive, as a repository of memory.’
Lost Children Archive was nominated by Biblioteca Vila De Gràcia, a public library in Barcelona, Spain. The winning novel was chosen from a shortlist of 6 novels by writers from Ireland, Mexico, the UK and the USA.
As a fitting finale to ILFDublin 2021, Valeria Luiselli will be welcomed to the festival, for an in-depth conversation about her novel, with previous DUBLIN Literary Award winner Colm Toíbín, and to take questions from the audience.
Complimentary tickets can be booked now