Skip to main content

The Winner Is ……. A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa


A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa wins the 2017 International DUBLIN Literary Award

21st June, 2017: Angolan author José Eduardo Agualusa has won the 2017 International DUBLIN Literary Award for his novel A General Theory of Oblivion, translated from the Portuguese by Daniel Hahn. The Award is organised and sponsored by Dublin City Council and at €100,000 is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English.


Uniquely, the Award receives its nominations from public libraries in cities around the globe and recognises both writers and translators. The winner was announced at a ceremony in Dublin’s Mansion House today.

José Eduardo Agualusa was born in Huambo, Angola, in 1960, and is one of the leading literary voices in Angola and the Portuguese-speaking world. His novel Creole was awarded the Portuguese Grand Prize for Literature, and The Book of Chameleons won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize in 2007. Agualusa lives between Portugal, Angola and Brazil.

The winning novel was chosen from a total of 147 titles, nominated by libraries in 110 cities in 40 countries. It was first published in the UK by Harvill Secker and in the USA by Archipelago Books. The shortlist of ten novels, as chosen by an international panel of judges, included novels from four continents. José Eduardo Agualusa is the second African author to win the prize in its 22 year history. Agualusa received a cheque for €75,000. Daniel Hahn, translator of A General Theory of Oblivion, received a cheque for €25,000.

‘We in Dublin City Council are committed to playing a very active role in making Dublin’s rich literary heritage a living and lively part of our City’s life,’ said Lord Mayor and Patron, Brendan Carr. ‘Through initiatives such as this Award we bring literature to all corners of the City, and make Dublin known throughout the world as a City of Literature.’

A General Theory of Oblivion tells the story of Ludo, who on the eve of Angolan independence, bricks herself into her apartment, where she will remain for the next thirty years. She lives off vegetables and pigeons, burns her furniture and books to stay alive and keeps herself busy by writing her story on the walls of her home.

The outside world slowly seeps into Ludo’s life through snippets on the radio, voices from next door, glimpses of a man fleeing his pursuers and a note attached to a bird’s foot. Until one day she meets Sabalu, a young boy from the street who climbs up to her terrace.

Commenting on his win, José Eduardo Agualusa said: ‘I’m very happy to have won the International Dublin Literary Award. A General Theory of Oblivion is a book about xenophobia and the fear of the Other. This theme couldn’t be more current. If my winning the prize contributes in some way to a debate and helps fight xenophobia, I would be even happier.’
Daniel Hahn, who translated the novel from the original Portuguese, said ‘one of the reasons we translators translate is because we want to bring books we love to new readers – we’re natural proselytisers, I think; so winning any prestigious prize is wonderful because is it helps to do just that, to draw more people’s attention to something we’re already so eager to share. That this particular prize comes out of the wonderful world of public libraries makes is all the more special.’

‘A General Theory of Oblivion is a memorable and engaging story of isolation and prejudice,’ said Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian. ‘The 22nd winning title introduces Ludo, a strong female character, who struggles with fear and mistrust but survives with resilience and tenacity and the power of friendship. This is the 9th winning title in translation and the first originally written in Portugese.’
The prize money was presented to the winner and translator by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of the Award’s founders and sponsors, Dublin City Council.

The Award ceremony at The Mansion House in Dublin was livestreamed on the International DUBLIN Literary Award Facebook page and on the Dublin City Libraries Facebook page, to allow people from across the world to tune in to the event.




The 2017 judging panel, which includes Chris Morash, Vice Provost of Trinity College, commented:

“Even while A General Theory of Oblivion details starvation, torture and killings and revolves around our need to forget, its tone and message are concerned with love. It is love that redeems Ludo and others, and it is love for the novel’s Luanda setting that steeps the narrative in idiosyncratic detail. The writer gives his readers both understanding and hope, taking Angolan stories and making them universally applicable. No one is truly alone in José Eduardo Agualusa’s Luanda beehive, and his characters make us, too, feel deeply connected to the world.” (Full Judges’ Citation below)

A General Theory of Oblivion was nominated by Biblioteca Demonstrativa Maria da Conceição Moreira Salles, Brasilia, Brazil; Gradska Knjiznica Rijeka, Croatia; Biblioteca Municipal de Oeiras and Biblioteca Pública Municipal do Porto, Portugal, who commented:
‘The novel delights us by its quality and by the emotional story of the main character. Key elements of recent Angolan history intertwined with the lives of ordinary people, build a kaleidoscope that ends up becoming a very, very good novel.’

‘Agualusa creates the unusual character, based on a real person, of a woman who confines herself to her apartment, shocked by the events that led to Angolan independence and almost three decades of civil war. Agualusa masterfully portrays Angola and Luanda with all their violence, mysticism and lunacy but also with their warmth.’

The 2017 shortlist included six novels in translation and authors from America (Hanya Yanagihara, Viet Thanh Nguyen (Vietnamese/American) and Chinelo Okparanta (Nigerian/American); Angola (José Eduardo Agualusa); Austria (Robert Seethaler); Denmark (Kim Leine (Danish/Norwegian); Ireland (Anne Enright); Mexico (Valeria Luiselli); Mozambique (Mic Couto) and Turkey (Orhan Pamuk).

Copies of the winner as well as copies of the 10 shortlisted books and the 147 novels nominated for the 2017 Award, are available to borrow from Dublin Public libraries.














JUDGES’ CITATION – 2017 Winner

A General Theory of Oblivion by José Eduardo Agualusa, translated by Daniel Hahn

“Some biologists argue that a single bee, a single ant, is nothing more than the mobile cells of one individual. The true organisms are the beehive and the ant nest.” In A General Theory of Oblivion, José Eduardo Agualusa presents us with the beehive of Luanda and its recent history. Beginning with the extraordinary premise of a Portuguese woman who bricks herself into her apartment on the eve of Angolan independence, the novel gradually introduces character after character, their stories tessellating in unexpected ways.

With no connection to the city, Ludo views the events with puzzlement from her eleventh-floor eyrie, showing us scraps of Angola’s complex development varying from brutal arrests to a domesticated pygmy hippo. All around her, however, others are involved directly and we come to hear their stories too. Agualusa’s patchwork structure perfectly reflects the city’s organized chaos over twenty-eight years, each chapter standing alone but skilfully fitting into the whole.

Embedded within a convincing fiction of its own, the novel basks in the joy of slow storytelling. Poets are swallowed up by the earth, lovers separated and reunited, men killed and resurrected, the rich become poor and the poor become millionaires. The author enjoys teasing us with revelations we could never have seen coming, and as he does so his characters flesh out and take on unforeseen dimensions. There are no simple judgements here – just as Ludo moves from outright racism to love of Luanda and her neighbours, so a mercenary finds a family and a torturer finds morals. Each shift arranges the novel’s reality anew.

Agualusa’s language is pared down but equally inventive, using diaries and poetry written in charcoal on Ludo’s walls, humorous asides and words in local languages. Daniel Hahn has written a subtly sparkling English version, his translation never overpowering the original but helping Anglophone readers with inconspicuous interventions. The translator plays with English sounds, giving us poets with “more interest in pursuing the booze than the muse,” “gangly greyhounds and heavy asthmatic mastiffs” and “young people with lustrous, rust-coloured skin.” Hahn’s rendering of a fourteen-word poem retains beauty, brevity and wordplay – a great accomplishment.

Even while A General Theory of Oblivion details starvation, torture and killings and revolves around our need to forget, its tone and message are concerned with love. One of the novel’s pivotal animal characters is even named Love. It is love that redeems Ludo and others, and it is love for the novel’s Luanda setting that steeps the narrative in idiosyncratic detail. The writer gives his readers both understanding and hope, taking Angolan stories and making them universally applicable. No one is truly alone in José Eduardo Agualusa’s Luanda beehive, and his characters make us, too, feel deeply connected to the world.

International Dublin Literary Award – Winner Announcement


Winner Announcement….21 June!



The International DUBLIN Literary Award is worth €100,000 to the winner and is the world’s most valuable annual literary award for a single work of fiction published in English.

The Award is given annually. The prize of €100,000 is awarded to the author of the winning book. However, if the winning book is in English translation, €75,000 is awarded to the author and €25,000 to the translator.

‘The titles on this year’s shortlist were nominated by public libraries in Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Croatia, Denmark, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Poland, Portugal, Russia, Scotland, Sweden and the USA’, said Dublin’s Lord Mayor, Brendan Carr, Patron of the Award. ‘This is the beauty of this award; it reaches out to readers and authors worldwide, while also celebrating excellence in contemporary Irish literature represented on the 2017 shortlist by our laureate for Irish Fiction, Anne Enright.’

‘The 2017 winner will be chosen from this intriguing international shortlist which includes six novels in translation from Danish, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Turkish. The novels come from Angola, Austria, Denmark/Norway, Ireland, Mexico, Mozambique, Nigeria, Turkey, Vietnam and the USA’, said Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian. ‘Issues of conflict and communication are set against a myriad of cultural and family settings and in contemporary and historic time periods. For readers, these stories add new and absorbing  characters to  our circle of international literary  acquaintances.’

One of the shortlisted authors is a previous winner. Orhan Pamuk won the prize in 2003 for his novel, My Name is Red, translated from the Turkish by Erdag M. Göknar.

The five member international judging panel, chaired by Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan, will select one winner which will be announced by Lord Mayor, Brendan Carr, Patron of the Award, on Wednesday 21st June.

The Lord Mayor reminded Dubliners that they can borrow the shortlisted novels from Dublin City Public Libraries. “Readers have plenty of time to pick their own favourite between now and 21st June, when I announce the winner.

The International DUBLIN Literary Award is presented annually for a novel written in English or translated into English. Nominations are made by library systems in major cities throughout the world. Established in 1994, the Award is now wholly funded by Dublin City Council. The Award aims to promote excellence in world literature. Designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010, Dublin’s literary heritage is a significant driver of cultural tourism for the City.

The award promotes Dublin internationally as a literary destination, as Juan Pablo Villalobos (2016 judging panel) remarked “Dublin is a very literary city and for me as a Mexican writer I was very, very happy to be invited to be a judge because it’s the city of Samuel Beckett, one of my literary heroes, and of James Joyce of course. Obviously world wide Dublin is known as a literary city and I think that this prize is becoming every year more and more important.”

All the nominated novels can be viewed on

Dublin City CouncilUNESCO City of Literature

Brought to you by Dublin City Council

Howth Literary Festival

The third Howth Literary Festival takes place this weekend, 9th to 11th June, in beautiful Howth Castle. The literary and poetry ‘In Conversation With’ series includes Claire Keegan and Derek Hand; Mary O’Malley, Paula Meehan and Nerys Williams; Ruadhán Mac Cormaic and Gary Murphy; Peter Cunningham and Theo Dorgan; Julie Parsons, Michele Forbes and Hilary Fannin. This year’s One City One Book author Joe Joyce will be in conversation with Sean Moncrieff about his Echoland novel.

More details at

International Dublin Literary Award Shortlist

Congratulations to the ten authors shortlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award. There are seven novels in translation shortlisted, and one Irish novel – The Green Road by Anne Enright. The award is administered by Dublin City Council. Books are nominated by libraries in major cities throughout the world. The winner will be announced on 21st June. More details about the shortlist

George Russell: Literary Witness to Irish History Lecture

To celebrate the 150th anniversary of the birth of George William Russell, Ambassador Daniel Mulhall, Ambassador of Ireland to Great Britain, will give a public lecture titled George Russell (AE): literary witness to Irish history in the National Library of Ireland, Kildare St on Monday 10th April at 7pm. All are welcome. No booking is required.

Daniel Mulhall, who has maintained a long-term interest in AE’s life and work, will assess his contribution to the shaping of modern Ireland, as a cultural nationalist, an advocate of agricultural co-operation and an editor of two influential journals.

Daniel Mulhall has a lifelong interest in Irish history and literature. He is co-editor with Eugenio Biagini of The Shaping of Modern Ireland: a centenary assessment which was published in 2016. He has held a variety of posts within the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and is currently Ireland’s Ambassador in London.

George William Russell:

George Russell (AE), poet, painter, mystic and prominent public figure during the opening decades of the 20th century, was born in Lurgan, Co. Armagh on 10 April 1867. He became a leading figure in the Irish literary revival of the 1890s and was involved with W.B. Yeats and Lady Gregory in setting up the Abbey Theatre in 1904. From his editorial desk at the Irish Homestead (1905-1923) and the Irish Statesman (1923-1930, AE observed such dramatic events as the Dublin lock-out of 1913, the First World War, the Easter Rising and its aftermath, the Irish Convention of 1917-1918 in which he participated, the war of independence, the civil war and the formative years of the Irish Free State. No writer of literary merit maintained such an intensive engagement with the Ireland of his time. His work offers a unique perspective on that transformative era in Irish history.
To commemorate the 150th anniversary of A.E.’s birth, Swan River Press will reissue Selected Poems which was originally published in September 1935, just two months after his death.
Daniel Mulhall has contributed the biographical afterword to this edition.

Children’s Literature, Building Resilience

Children’s Literature, Building Resilience taking place on June 17th 2017, in National Library of Ireland, Kildare St, in partnership with Children’s Books Ireland

A non-profit conference promoting childhood mental health in an exciting coming together of two disciplines – the literary and the therapeutic. Celebrating the imaginative impact children’s literature plays in building a child’s resilience.

Featuring guest speakers authors Roddy Doyle, Hilary Fannin, Siobhán Parkinson, Kevin Stevens and Patricia Forde, and Prof. Amanda Piesse (Children’s Literature, Trinity College) and Mary Pyle, (PhD candidate, Children’s Literature Trinity College)

Tickets cost €65 Book at


Book Launch: An Leabhar Liath, Gaelic Love Poetry

Peter Mackay and Iain S Macpherson discuss the newly published An Leabhar Liath /The Light Blue Book: 500 years of Gaelic love and transgressive verse.

The book is already seen as a landmark in the printed record of Gaelic culture. It mines ‘a long and healthy tradition – or counter-tradition or subculture – of bawdry, erotic or love poetry that stretches as far back as the age of Ossian’, presenting 65 poems and songs (and some fragments) from high and low culture, including many from female perspectives. The majority of the poems have new English translations.

Event details:

Wed 15 March 2017, 6-8pm
Hodges Figgis
56-58 Dawson Street
Cost: free

International Literature Festival Dublin’s Date With An Agent

The hugely popular Date with an Agent programme, hosted by International Literature Festival Dublin and, returns in 2017 – this time with some format changes to enhance the day for both writers and agents.

Successful applicants will be invited to attend to an information-packed event at Smock Alley Theatre on Saturday 20th May, 10am – 5pm:

Getting Published Conference

Full-day conference facilitated by Vanessa Fox O’Loughlin of, featuring our facilitating agents and professionals from various sectors of the publishing industry. The day conference will finish with an Agent Panel, bringing all our agents together for an in-depth discussion about the industry and current trends – you will be invited to pose your questions, so come prepared.

Agent Workshops

Incorporated in this year’s Date with an Agent event will be a series of one hour workshops for 15 selected writers, each facilitated by one of our participating agents. These will focus on developing synopses and pitches, giving participants the benefit of focused feedback, as well as peer critique.

Agent Dates

In order to allow more time for each writer/agent ‘date’, each of our participating agents will be meeting just five selected writers in one-to-one meetings of 15 minutes each.

The closing date for applications is Monday 20th March at 5pm, please ensure you allow sufficient time for delivery and full application details are available here

International Women’s Day – Writers’ Voices


On Saturday 11 March at 3.30pm, 90 women writers from all corners of Ireland will participate in a mass reading on the steps of Dublin’s Garden of Remembrance, creating a soundscape of women writers’ voices in celebration of International Women’s Day. The public and press will be invited to join the experience.


The soundscape is part of a collaboration between the Irish Writers Centre and Women Aloud Northern Ireland, bringing together  90 women writers from North and South for a day-long literary readathon to mark International Women’s Day. Beginning at 11am, the full day event will be an all-island literary celebration of women’s writing and an opportunity to hear extracts from women writers participating in the Irish Writers Centre and Women Aloud NI. With panel discussions and information sessions, the event aims to cement the relationships between women writers across genres — and across Ireland.


The event is one in a series of events from Women Aloud NI, founded in 2016 by author Jane Talbot. Collaborating with the Irish Writers Centre, the aim of this event is to inspire women to write, read, and champion the literary work of local women, strengthen their relationship with local booksellers and librarians, and promote the performances, readings and literary endeavours of women writers.


Audi Dublin International Film Festival Literary Strand

There are plenty of films for book lovers amongst the 100+ screenings at this year’s Audi Dublin International Film Festival, which takes place from 16-26 February. Jim Sheridan’s The Secret Scripture, adapted from the award-winning novel by Sebastian Barry, will have star Vanessa Redgrave in attendance at the screening. For younger audiences, beloved children’s author Dame Jacqueline Wilson will attend three films she’s selected for the young people’s programme Fantastic Flix, introducing Mandy and The Secret Garden and attending a Q&A at the screening of the adaptation of her book The Illustrated Mum.  To see the guide to literary interests at ADIFF visit


Jacqueline Wilson - July 2012 . ©James Jordan
Jacqueline Wilson – July 2012 . ©James Jordan

The programme features a rich mix of new films from Ireland and across the world and will see 60+ International and Irish guests coming to Dublin. There’s also a programme for young people aged 4 – 16 aimed at schools and families called Fantastic Flix running from Feb 4 – 25. Full details here

Bookings can be made online, by phone +353 1 687 7974 or in person at DIFF House, 13 Lower Ormond Quay, Monday to Saturday from 10pm-6pm.