Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill has won the 2018 Zbigniew Herbert International Literary Award.
Edward Hirsch, chairman of this year’s jury, commented:
The jury is thrilled to announce the Irish-language poet, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill, as the winner of The Zbigniew Herbert Award 2018. We have chosen a ground-breaking and courageous poet who is both local and international, a poet, who has helped to sustain and remake her language.
The jury recognised that Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill’s creativity is the fulfilment of an artistic act aimed at saving a seemingly-condemned language, a gesture of opposition to cultural unification. Zbigniew Herbert’s outlook comes to mind here in the famous Prayer of Mr Cogito: The Traveller asking one to ‘understand other people, other languages, other suffering’.
The 2018 award laureate said:
I’m absolutely delighted to get the prize because working in a minority language you get so used to being overlooked, even in your own country, that it never even dawned on me that I had a chance. I want to thank the members of the jury very much, not just on my own behalf, but also on behalf of the Irish language.
This year’s laureate was chosen by an international jury composed of poets, essayists, translators and publishers: Yurii Andrukhovych (Ukraine), Edward Hirsch (USA), Michael Krüger (Germany), Mercedes Montana (Spain) and Tomasz Różycki (Poland).
Yurii Andrukhovych on the justification of the jury’s selection:
The poems by Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill make an extremely strong impression on the reader, by way of their dense intense images, courage of thinking, depth of associations, intonational purity. Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill is an extraordinarily recognisable poet – first of all thanks to the very special expressiveness and formal perfection of her poetical works. Throughout her whole creative life, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill has been working with a so called ‘small language’ although she absolutely could be successfully working with English. Nevertheless she has chosen Gaelic – the authentic language of Ireland, which probably seems to nowadays be somewhere very close to the edge of disappearance. Such a desperate gesture deserves the highest honours and huge respect. We have to recognise Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill as someone who is like a fearless agent of a universal reanimation service of the Gaelic language.
Defending the right to exist of her ‘small language’, Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill defends – at the same time – the right of Irish women to self-sufficient creativity, for a highly individual, sharply critical approach to the ‘masculine’ social reality of her country. And in that sense the great figure of Zbigniew Herbert, a poet of uncompromising culture and social ethics, seems to be very significant and symbolic. To whom else could be handed over an award in his name, if not to that uncompromising female hero, who Nuala Ní Dhomhnaill without any doubt is?