American author Akhil Sharma has won the 2016 International DUBLIN Literary Award for his novelFamily Life. 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.
Akhil Sharma was born in Delhi, India, and moved with his family to the United States when he was eight. He is also the author of An Obedient Father, winner of the PEN/Hemingway Award and a New York Times Notable Book of the Year. He lives in New York City and is an assistant professor of English at Rutgers University, Newark.
The winning novel was chosen from a total of 160 titles, nominated by libraries in 118 cities in 43 countries. It was first published in the USA by W.W. Norton and in the UK by Faber & Faber. The shortlist of ten novels, as chosen by an international panel of judges, included novels from five continents. Akhil Sharma is the third American author to win the prize in its 21 year history.
Family Life tells the story of eight-year-old Ajay, whose family move from Delhi to America in 1978. America to the Mishras is everything they could have imagined and more: life is extraordinary until tragedy strikes, leaving one brother severely brain-damaged and the other lost and virtually orphaned in a strange land. Ajay, the family’s younger son, prays to a God he envisions as Superman, longing to find his place amid the ruins of his family’s new life.
Heart-wrenching and darkly funny, Family Life is a universal story of a boy torn between duty and his own survival.
Commenting on his win, Akhil Sharma said: “To be acknowledged by people I respect is a strange thing. I can’t say I fooled them. I feel abashed by this honor.”
“Family Life tells a story of hopes dashed and ambition thwarted against a backdrop of emigration and displacement”, said Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian. “Akhil Sharma, our 21st winner, joins a unique creative collective. Their stories delve deep into personal and family dynamics and bring us memorable narrators, singular voices that stay in our imaginations, the mark of all great storytellers.”
Akhil Sharma received a cheque for €100,000. The prize money was presented to the winner by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of the Award’s founders and sponsors, Dublin City Council. Dublin City has a long and rich literary heritage as well as a thriving living literary scene, and was designated a UNESCO City of Literature in 2010.