The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez wins International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award.

The Sound of Things Falling by Colombian author, Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated from Spanish by Canadian Anne McLean, is the winner of the 2014 International IMPAC DUBLIN Literary Award.

The Award is organised by the Public Library service of Dublin City Council.  The €100,000 prize is the world’s largest prize for a single novel published in English. Uniquely, the IMPAC DUBLIN receives its nominations from public libraries in cities around the globe and recognises both writers and translators.

Juan Gabriel Vásquez lived in Europe for 16 years before returning to his native Bogotá, Colombia. He is the author of two previous novels, The Informers and The Secret History of Costaguana. His books have been published in fifteen languages worldwide.

“The IMPAC DUBLIN award is the world’s most open and international book prize” said the Lord Mayor and Patron of the Award, Christy Burke, announcing the winner at a ceremony in Dublin's Mansion House on 12th June, “it is not restricted by nationality or geography and since 1996 it has grown into one of the established highlights of the international literary calendar.” Juan Gabriel Vásquez received a cheque for €75,000. Anne McLean, translator of The Sound of Things Falling, received a cheque for €25,000.

The winning novel was chosen from a total of 152 titles, nominated by 150 libraries from 39 countries.  It was first published in the UK by Bloomsbury. The shortlist of ten novels, as chosen by an international panel of judges included novels from five continents. Juan Gabriel Vásquez is the first South American author to win the prize in its 19 year history.

Commenting on his win, Juan Gabriel Vásquez said: “For me, it's all about the names: the names of writers who have received the award before me and whose work I've admired and looked up to; but particularly the name of James Joyce. I have often said that there are two books that made me want to become a writer: One Hundred Years of Solitude, which I read when I was 16, and Ulysses, which I read three years later. I've always felt at home in Dublin and in Irish literature. So in more ways than one, this prize is a sort of homecoming”.

The winning novel was translated from Spanish by Canadian translator, Anne McLean who said “It’s such a thrill to see a novel I translated win the IMPAC Dublin Literary Award. I love that libraries nominate the books eligible for this prize and that translated novels are considered on an equal footing with books originally written in English. The Sound of Things Falling is a wonderful and important novel and I hope this will mean it can reach even wider readership in the English-speaking world.”

The Sound of Things Falling is the eighth novel in translation to win the award since its inception in 1996.

“Through the reach of the Dublin Award, this compelling story will be brought to readers worldwide, bringing them on a fictional journey of intrigue and fascination”, said Margaret Hayes, Dublin City Librarian.

The prize money was presented to the winner and translator by Owen Keegan, Chief Executive of the Award’s sponsors for 2014, Dublin City Council.

The judges commented: “The Sound of Things Falling is a consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page. Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiralling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events.” (Full citation below.)

The Sound of Things Falling was nominated by Biblioteca Cosío Daniel Villegas, Mexico City.

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award 2014 shortlist included authors from Australia (Michelle de Kretser); Argentina (Andrés Neuman); France (Marie NDiaye); Ireland (Donal Ryan); Malaysia (Tan Twan Eng); The Netherlands (Gerbrand Bakker); Northern Ireland (David Park); Norway (Karl Ove Knausgaard); and the USA (Patrick Flanery). All the shortlisted books as well as copies of the 152 novels nominated for the 2014 Award, are available to borrow from Dublin public libraries.




Notes for editors

The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award is presented annually to promote excellence in world literature. It is open to novels written in any language and by authors of any nationality, provided the work has been published in English or in English translation in the specified time period as outlined in the rules and conditions for the year. Nominations are submitted by library systems in major cities throughout the world.

Previous winners of the International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award include:

City of Bohane by Kevin Barry (2013), Even the Dogs by Jon McGregor (2012), Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann (2011), The Twin by Gerbrand Bakker (2010), Man Gone Down by Michael Thomas (2009), De Niro’s Game by Rawi Hage (2008) and Out Stealing Horses by Per Petterson (2007).


The other shortlisted novels for the 2014 Award were The Detour by Gerbrand Bakker, Questions of Travel by Michelle de Kretser, Absolution by Patrick Flanery, A Death in the Family by Karl Ove Knausgaard, Three Strong Women by Marie NDiaye, Traveller of the Century by Andrés Neuman, The Light of Amsterdam by David Park, The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan and The Garden of Evening Mists by Tan Twan Eng.


See  for full details of the International IMPAC Dublin Award. 


Citation, author and translator details, and 2014  judging panel below.



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CITATION – 2014 Winner

The Sound of Things Falling by Juan Gabriel Vásquez, translated from Spanish by Anne McLean

The Sound of Things Falling is a consummate literary thriller that resonates long after the final page. Through a masterly command of layered time periods, spiralling mysteries and a noir palette, it reveals how intimate lives are overshadowed by history; how the past preys on the present; and how the fate of individuals as well as countries is moulded by distant, or covert, events.

The main setting in a drizzly and overcast Andean capital, Bogotá, evokes a darkly atmospheric Colombian landscape far from the sultry Caribbean coast made familiar through the fiction of Gabriel García Márquez. The narrator, Antonio Yammara, is a law lecturer tipped into a parallel underworld through a drive-by motorbike shooting that injures him and kills his billiard-hall acquaintance, the shadowy pilot Ricardo Laverde - who is just out after serving almost 20 year in jail. Through the lecturer's compulsive investigation of the pilot's criminal past, the novel deftly sketches the history of the drug trade in one South American country. Through vivid secondary characters, such as a sinister Chicago drop-out and US Peace Corps volunteer, it traces the tutelary, and often forgotten, role played in the incipient trade by a generation of North American adventurers in the 1960s and 70s - some of them Vietnam veterans.

Yet it is in the novel's most intimate relationships that the human costs of this illegal trade are felt. The  portrait of Yammara's foundering marriage to the young Aura is painfully frank, rendered in language that is deliberately muted as he succumbs to post-traumatic stress. The desolate bond he forms with the pilot's disturbed and reclusive daughter Maya, which is built on shared trauma, evokes an entire generation psychologically scarred by the terrorist bombings and targeted killings of the 1980s and early 1990s, when the drug cartels declared open war on the government.

Through superb use of metaphor, the novel evokes a world of precarious flight and desperate, last-ditch ambition, in which everything is falling; nothing is secure. Airliners drop out of the sky, marriages crash and burn, daredevil pilots make lethal miscalculations, and family men make flawed choices. Almost anything can be corrupted by the glittering promise of unimaginable wealth, and fate or fluke is the name we give to events beyond our control that lay waste to our soaring dreams. Juan Gabriel Vásquez's tragic vision is marvellously served by Anne McLean's supple and idiomatic translation.

About the author

Juan Gabriel Vásquez was born in Bogotá in 1973. He studied Latin American literature at the Sorbonne between 1996 and 1998, and has translated works by E. M. Forster and Victor Hugo, among others, into Spanish. He was nominated as one of the Bogotá 39, South America’s most promising writers of the new generation. His previous books include The Informers, which was shortlisted for the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize, and The Secret History of Costaguana, which won the Qwerty prize in Barcelona. His books have been published in fifteen languages worldwide. After sixteen years in France, Belgium and Spain, he now lives in Bogotá.

About the translator

Anne McLean has translated Latin American and Spanish novels, short stories, memoirs and other writings by authors including Hector Abad, Carmen Martín Gaite, Julio Cortázar, Ignacio Martínez de Pisón, Enrique Vila-Matas and Tomás Eloy Martínez. She has twice won the Independent Foreign Fiction Prize: for Soldiers of Salamis by Javier Cercas in 2004 (which also won her the Valle Inclán Award), and for The Armies, by Evelio Rosero in 2009. She lives in Toronto.

Judging Panel 2014


Tash Aw is the author of three novels, The Harmony Silk Factory, Map of the Invisible World and Five Star Billionaire, which have won the Whitbread and Commonwealth Prizes and twice been longlisted for the MAN Booker Prize; they have also been translated into twenty four languages. His short fiction has won an O. Henry Award and been published in A Public Space and the landmark Granta 100, amongst others. He lives in London.

Catherine Dunne is  author of nine novels. The most recent, The Things We Know Now, won the 700th anniversary Giovanni Boccaccio International Prize for Fiction in 2013 and was shortlisted for the Eason Novel of the Year at the Irish Book Awards 2013. Catherine has also published one work of non-fiction, a social history of Irish immigrants in London, called An Unconsidered People.  She was awarded the International Prize at the Vigevano Literary Festival in Vigevano, Italy, in 2006, and has been shortlisted for, among others, the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year Award and the Italian Booksellers’ Award. Catherine Dunne lives in Dublin.

Giles Foden was born in in 1967 to Irish and English parents. He grew up mostly in Africa, spending his summer holidays in north Kerry. Between 1990 and 2006 he worked on newspapers and magazines in Britain, during which period he published his debut novel The Last King of Scotland, which won the 1998 Whitbread First Novel Award. He is author of three other novels — Ladysmith, Zanzibar and Turbulence — and a work of narrative non-fiction, Mimi and Toutou Go Forth. Giles is currently Professor of Creative Writing at the University of East Anglia. He has been a judge on the Kerry Group Irish Fiction Award, the Hennessy New Irish Writing Award, and the MAN Booker Prize.

Maya Jaggi is an award-winning critic and cultural journalist in Britain who received an honorary doctorate from The Open University in 2012 for her outstanding contribution to education and culture over 25 years, especially in ‘extending the map of international writing.’ A longstanding profile writer and critic for the Guardian Review, she also writes for the Financial Times, Independent, Newsweek and Literary Review, and appears on BBC radio and television. Educated at Oxford University and the London School of Economics, she has interviewed 12 Nobel prizewinners in literature, and judged literary awards including the Orange, David Cohen, Caine and Commonwealth Writers prizes. She chaired the Man Asian Literary Prize jury in Hong Kong in 2013.

Maciej Świerkocki is a former academic teacher with a Ph.d. in comparative literature, currently an award-winning freelance translator, critic, screenwriter, novelist and editor. He has translated more than 50 books from English into Polish, including works by John Barth, Angela Carter, Cormac McCarthy, Ciaran Carson, Robert Graves, Richard Hughes, Jack Kerouac, Henry Miller, John Irving, Howard Jacobson, John Updike and W.B. Yeats. His prose was published in English in The Tampa Review and The Yellow Nib. His latest book, a collection of essays called Echa postmodernizmu [Echoes of Postmodernism] came out in 2010. Member of the Polish Writers’ Association and the Polish Film Academy. He lives and works in Łódź, Poland.

Hon. Eugene R. Sullivan, non-voting chair of the judging panel, is a former Chief Judge of a US Court of Appeals and brings a wealth of experience from sixteen years on the bench. His first novel, The Majority Rules, was published in 2005.  His second novel of his political thriller trilogy, The Report to the Judiciary, was published in 2008. When not recalled to the Federal Bench, Judge Sullivan is a partner in the Washington, D.C. law firm of Pepper Hamilton, LLP.