Edna O’Brien to receive cultural award from France
Edna O’Brien will receive France’s highest cultural distinction when she is named commander of the Ordre des Arts et des Lettres on Sunday.
France has three ranks of cultural awards, knight, officer and commander, with the latter the most prestigious. The title has previously gone to writers including TS Eliot, Jorge Luis Borges, Seamus Heaney and Ray Bradbury, and to other cultural figures including Sean Connery, Bono, Bruce Willis and Meryl Streep.
France’s Ministry of Culture cite that O’Brien, 90, “has built a special relationship with France and the French public both for the quality of her writing but also for her universal struggles, which received a particular resonance in France”.
Edna O’Brien opened the Avignon theatre festival last year with a reading from Girl, that the ministry described as “a moving story about violence against women, one of her lifelong concerns”. She was also the first non-French recipient of the Prix Femina special in 2019, a unique award in honour of her entire body of work.
The ceremony, which will be held on Sunday, will include Irish Minister for Culture Catherine Martin, Colum McCann and Gabriel Byrne paying tribute to O’Brien, who will be presented with the award by France’s Minister for Culture, Roselyne Bachelot.