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Alice Zeniter and Irish translator Frank Wynne scoop 2022 Dublin Literary Award: ‘I’ve always associated Ireland with literature’ logo 23/05/2022 Melanie Finn

The winner of Ireland’s biggest literary prize has described the rise of the far right in France as “terrifying.”

French author Alice Zeniter and Irish translator Frank Wynne have today been confirmed as the winners of the 2022 Dublin Literary Award for the acclaimed ‘The Art of Losing.’

The award, which is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English, is given by Dublin City Council will see the author and translator take home €75,000 and €25,000 respectively. She beat off competition from a longlist of 79 titles nominated by 94 libraries from 40 countries globally.

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Zeniter’s novel exploring themes of colonisation and immigration chronicles the lives of three generations of an Algerian family from the 1950’s up to modern-day Paris.

Speaking in Dublin’s Merrion Square, Ms Zeniter (35) said there is still much work to be done in terms of integrating various elements of French society. Last month saw Le Pen win 41.5pc of the vote, reaching an unprecedented level of popularity despite Emmanuel Macron winning a second term.

“It’s terrifying and we just had a presidential campaign during which Marine le Pen can say on national TV that if she was elected, she would send police officers in the street unveiling Muslim women on day one.

"The racist speak today is actually stronger,” said Ms Zeniter.

“For the last two presidential elections, I know that my grandmother was waiting for the result of the last two crying in her flat, thinking ‘If Marine Le Pen gets elected, I won’t be able to walk out of my flat tomorrow as everybody will feel entitled to attack me, spit on me, grab my hijab.’

“And I went to vote for Macron, whose policies I really hate because he dismantled all the public services in France. But I was thinking about my grandmother.”

She spoke of her hopes of having the international spotlight put on the story of those of Algerian descent may foster more tolerance and understanding. She said that it “drives me crazy that people don‘t have the empathy to think of others if it‘s not their family”.

“Just think about the people of Arabic or Algerian descent, who spent a few weeks locked up in their houses (during the campaign) being like ‘Will I still be able to go out tomorrow or next week?’”

“I think fiction can actually do that, can create that empathy even if you don’t know any Arabic or Algerian people around you. Maybe if you’ve read the book and spent 500 pages living with these characters, maybe afterwards if you Marine le Pen talking about these people only being thieves and so on, maybe you will think ‘Oh no.’ You know these characters and been educated which is what I hope fiction can do.”

On winning the award, she said she was “really happy and proud” as it was her first international prize and she wanted to tell a story of migration which can have the country of origin exist very strongly still.

“I guess I started writing when i was really young and at first, my readership was my family, But then you go, ‘Oh the book was actually bought by people who don’t even know me.’ It makes you feel dizzy.

"I am especially pleased with this prize as I’ve always associated Ireland with literature,” she said.

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