Mike McCormack

Author Mike McCormack
It's not often that an author described on his own Wikipedia page as "disgracefully neglected" is awarded a €100,000 literary prize. But this is where the Irish author Mike McCormack finds himself, with Wednesday's announcement that he has won the International Dublin literary award for his novel, Solar Bones. As someone who has hovered close to mainstream success without ever shaking off the slightly damning label of "writer's writer", he is unsurprisingly delighted.

"I don't feel neglected today. I don't know who put that Wiki page up, but I think whoever did will have to rethink that," he laughs. "I was shocked. I had completely given up hope that I was going to win it. But I'm over the shock now and enjoying myself - very much."

The International Dublin literary award, previously known as the Impac, operates with a slight air of mystery: a ridiculously long longlist (150 books this year) is picked by librarians around the world, from Barbados to Estonia, who hand their selection over to a panel of authors to bestow the grand boon on one unsuspecting writer.

Solar Bones is the Galway author's fifth book, but undoubtedly his most read. "People are looking at me like a debutante," he told the Guardian in 2017, after he was longlisted for the Man Booker and won the Goldsmiths prize for experimental fiction. "It's very much what I feel like."

The International Dublin judges hailed Solar Bones as "formally ambitious, stylistically dauntless and linguistically spirited". The novel is written in a single sentence that flows over 270-odd pages, and spans a single day: All Souls' Day, when, according to superstition, the dead can return to the land of the living. It is narrated by Marcus Conway - husband, father, civil engineer, a man gripped by "a crying sense of loneliness for my family" - and a ghost, a factor that, for McCormack, explains the experimental form. ("A ghost would have no business with a full stop," he once argued. "It might fatally falter and dissipate.")