Colm Tóibín and Edna O'Brien both among finalists for €35,000 short story award
The award-winning Irish writers will be competing with two first-time authors, Canadian Alexander MacLeod and American Suzanne Rivecca, for the €35,000 (£26,500) prize, as well as with former winner Yiyun Li and American novelist Valerie Trueblood, picked for her first short-story collection.
"It's a bumper year for Irish writers with a collection from Edna O'Brien, who's a superb writer of stories – she always has been, they're better than her novels by far – and Colm Tóibín," said judge Alannah Hopkin, the Irish novelist and short-story writer. "I opened Tóibín's book The Empty Family after reading lots of younger writers just starting their careers, and I read only a few sentences before I said 'Oh my god, he's a master' ... With Edna O'Brien, you feel like you're inside someone else's mind. These are not conventional stories – they're almost a meditation or a rapture."
Hopkin said the collections on the shortlist, from Li's tales of modern China, Gold Boy, Emerald Girl to Trueblood's stories of love and loss Marry or Burn, were "very different – it's almost like every one comes from a different universe," she said. Hopkin is joined on the judging panel by Irish poet and novelist Thomas McCarthy and Chris Power, a music and book critic, and the author of the Brief survey of the short story series on guardian.co.uk/books.
"There is a certain type of short story which gets into the New Yorker, which follows conventions – none of these do," added Hopkin. "MacLeod and Rivecca both stood out – in Rivecca's case she displays an enormous compassion for people, which is unusual and interesting. With MacLeod, it was the humanity and warmth in his stories and the feeling he had for the people he's writing about. [For Trueblood], it was the complexity of her stories – really good short stories often tell two stories at the same time and she does that very well. She has a very distinctive voice. And with Yiyun Li, a bit like Colm Tóibín, I started reading the stories and thought 'Oh my god how does she do this?' They're so seamless – I felt she could explain Chinese inscrutability."
The winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story award will be announced on 18 September. The prize, funded by Cork City Council, has been won in the past by Haruki Murakami and Jhumpa Lahiri.
The six shortlisted books are:
Gold Boy, Emerald Girl by Yiyun Li
Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod
Saints and Sinners by Edna O'Brien
Death is Not an Option by Suzanne Rivecca
The Empty Family by Colm Tóibín
Marry or Burn by Valerie Trueblood