Junot Díaz may be able to add the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award to the list of honors, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Critics Circle Award, that he's garnered for his novel The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao (Riverhead Books, 2007). Yesterday he was named one of eight finalists for the IMPAC Award, which is billed as the world's richest prize for a work of fiction published in English. It's worth a hundred thousand euros, or $132,000.
The other finalists are David Leavitt for The Indian Clerk, Jean Echenoz for Ravel (New Press), Mohsin Hamid for The Reluctant Fundamentalist (Harcourt), Travis Holland for The Archivist's Story (Dial), Roy Jacobsen for The Burnt-Out Town of Miracles (John Murray), Indra Sinha for Animal's People (Simon & Schuster), and Michael Thomas for Man Gone Down (Grove/Atlantic).
The winner will be announced on June 11. Previous winners include Per Petterson for Out Stealing Horses (Graywolf, 2007) and Colm Toibin for The Master (Scribner, 2004).
In Chasing the Whale: A Profile of Junot Díaz, which appeared in the September/October 2007 issue of Poets & Writers Magazine, Frank Bures writes about the eleven-year gap between the publication of the Latino author's debut story collection, Drown (Riverhead Books, 1996), and that of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. "The amount of despair it took me to finish that damn thing is so ironic," Díaz told Bures, "because that book is about anything but despair. In some ways, there is so much joy in that book, that it belies the difficulties of construction. That book almost killed me."
Below is a video of Díaz talking to Ramona Koval about the main character of the novel, Oscar Wao, at the Sydney Writers' Festival last May. Warning: It contains some strong language.