Tuesday, November 14, 2006

CNN World News Transcript Jim Irwin / Dublin / Young Writers Awards 11.12.06


Date November 12, 2006
Time 01:00 PM - 05:00 PM
Station CNN International
Location Network
Program World News


There are now 132 writers officially in the running for the
world's most lucrative book prize. It's called the
International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award and the winning
novelist gets around $130,000. That'll pay for quite a lot
of paper and ink. The man who established this prize,
James Irwin, joins me now live from London to talk about
it. Mr. Irwin, thank you so much for joining us.

Mr. JAMES IRWIN (Award Donor):
Hi, Ralitsa. How are you?

VASSILEVA: Very good. How did you come up with this idea?
Why did you get interested in coming up with this prize?

Mr. IRWIN: Well, actually, it was the Lord Mayor of
Dublin, Gay Mitchell, who came up with the idea and it
took him about three years to convince me that it was a
good idea. But back in the early '90's, we decided that it
was something that we did want to sponsor. Most of all
people spend a lot of time reading so internally within
the company it had a great deal of interest and we found
that over the years it's grown in prestige and we had a lot
of fun with it.

VASSILEVA: And what specifically are you trying to
encourage and inspire with this award?

Mr. IRWIN: Well, I found out a long time ago through my
work in Southeast Asia that when dictatorial governments
come into power the first people that they focus on getting
rid of are writers. We felt that it was very important to
have an international award where writers could get
international recognition even if they were writing in a
different language, but translated into English. This
award recognizes all writers if the work is translated into
English or written in English within that year. That gave
them a platform to speak out. Over the years, many of the
writers that have been recognized by the award, either on
the long list or the short list, have been writers that
have been attacked or even abused by their governments for
expressing their opinions. So we feel that it's a very
worthwhile cause, but it's also fun to read the books. The
books are very, very interesting.

VASSILEVA: We have to take your word for it. I was also
interested in the way the nominations come about. Your
latest nominations come from 169 library systems in 49
countries. That's very interesting. A truly international
process. How does it work?

Mr. IRWIN: Well, Ralitsa, each library sets up their own
format for it. In some cases, they have communities that
will recommend the book. In some cases librarians
themselves will recommend the book. So we don't establish
the rules for the libraries as far as the submissions are
concerned. I would say that each library is going to have
its own way of doing it.

VASSILEVA: And let's take a look at "The Master," by
Ireland's Colm Toibin, who won this prize this year, 2006.
Why did you decide--why did the judges decide--to award
this particular writer the prize?

Mr. IRWIN: Well, Ralitsa I'd like to tell you that, but I
can't tell you that because the judges make their selection
in complete secrecy and being the sponsor we stay out of
the selection process as much as possible. As a matter of
fact, we stay out of it totally because we never know what
book they're going to pick. And so we just can't tell you
how they do it. I can tell you this: That each time the
judges are selected, each year, the judges will set their
own rules for it. Judge Eugene Sullivan, the United States
Court of Appeals, is the non-voting chairman and president
of the judging committee. And he helps the judges set the
rules up. But they select their own rules, pretty much,
and they make the selection of the books on their own

VASSILEVA: You also do a lot of work with young people,
with children. Tell is a little bit more about that.

Mr. IRWIN: Well, what we found out, certainly, in the
United States, was that the high school level--or even at
the grammar school level, from four to eight--the children
simply don't have the writing skills that are necessary for
them to be able to carry on later on in business in terms
of doing any type of writing whatsoever. As a matter of
fact, only one out of one hundred children in the United
States are considered to be expert in terms of writing.
Four out of ten children don't even get any written
assignments in English. So we felt that there had to be
some way of giving recognition to children to try and do
that. Of course, in writing the children have to focus on
the work that they do, they have to go back and read it
again over and over. They have to support their
conclusions with facts. It's totally different from making
an oral argument. And most of the children coming out of
school today in the United States simply don't have that
skill. So we felt it was something that was worthwhile for us
to sponsor an award where the [Connecticut State University
System], for instance, in New England, co-sponsors it with us.
And we send the winning child to Dublin in June when the award
for the IMPAC Dublin Award is given.

Now, overseas, it's a little different. There we're trying
to encourage children to write in English--

VASSILEVA: Alright, Mr. Irwin, thank you so much. I hate
to interrupt you but we're out of time. Thank you so much.
I've been speaking with James Irwin with the International
IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. Thank you very much for
speaking with us.

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