Lack of Irish interest in famed literary award
One of Ireland’s most prestigious international literature awards faces an uncertain future as it may lose its funding from Cork City Council.
The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, now in its eighth year, may lose its funding according to Pat Cotter, administrator of the award and director of the Munster Literature Centre.
He feels that the award is very well known abroad and the outlay by the council is very worthwhile. The council cannot give him any guarantees about future funding beyond this year’s event.
“I’m perfectly understanding of Cork City Council’s budget position. My plea is to the media really. Cork City Council makes this investment and they need to be acknowledged for it,” he said.
“It’s the only award for short story collections in English from any country. It doesn’t get as much attention in Ireland as it deserves. There’s an element that 'if it happens in our backyard, it can’t be that big news'.
“There are certain echelons in Dublin that isn’t too into anything outside Dublin. You would think it would be harder to get a colour piece into the Guardian than papers closer to home,” he says. "We have never had any television coverage of the event.”
He said that he was “embarrassed” when two different Japanese TV stations rang him in 2006 after Haruki Murakami won, looking for news footage - there was no footage available as the event had never got any coverage.
He said that in previous years, they had “pulled out all the stops to get coverage from RTÉ and TV3” to no avail. “Maybe they don’t want to work on Sundays,” he added. The award is presented on Sunday evening each year.
He pointed out that on RTÉ they show footage of the Booker Prize awards in London, but not the Cork award.
“Last year we even warned RTÉ in advance that Edna O’Brien would be winning the award and picking up her award. They did interview her on Morning Ireland but there was no television coverage.”
Edna O’Brien was the first Irish winner of the award and it truly is an international award.
“Without wanting to sound pompous, it is the award for short stories. There are lots of prizes for single short stories, but we are the oldest and still the largest awards even though the amount of prize money has declined.” The prize money is now €25,000 although it was €50,000 when it begun during 2005, Cork’s year as the European capital of culture.
He says that entries came from “every English-speaking country in the world, even Nepal, India, South Africa, Kenya and Nigeria”.
They had their biggest amount of entries this year, with submissions from 17 countries. In the past the award has been won by Yiyun Li (2005) Haruki Murakami (2006) Miranda July (2007) Jhumpa Lahiri (2008) Simon Van Booy (2009) Ron Rash (2010) and Edna O’Brien (2011).
“It’s extremely hard to argue for the arts at the moment but you need to look after the cultural life of the city too,” he says. Cork City Council was contacted for comment but had not responded yesterday.