Fintan O’Toole Wins Irish Book of the Year
We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Ireland since 1958 by Fintan O’Toole is the An Post Irish Book of the Year 2021.
“To have a book that you hope speaks to people outside of a particular category, I suppose it’s trying to recognise something that maybe hits a chord more generally with Irish people with where Ireland is right now,” said O’Toole. “Also, unlike other books I’ve written in the past, this one is pretty personal – there’s quite a lot of ‘me’ in it, so it feels a bit more vulnerable and therefore you’re just a bit more grateful if people like it!”
We Don’t Know Ourselves was forty years in the making. Described as “a clear-eyed, myth-dispelling masterpiece that combines the personal with the political,” it has been praised as O’Toole’s best work to date.
Announced as the winner in a televised special on Wednesday evening, O’Toole had fierce competition from the other category winners.
The five runners up included Maureen Gaffney for Your One Wild and Precious Life, David King and Rhiannon Archard for A Hug For You, Emer McLysaght and Sarah Breen for Aisling and the City, Séamas O’Reilly for Did Ye Hear Mammy Died? and Sally Rooney for Beautiful World, Where Are You?
Writing for The Irish Times since 1988, O’Toole has been described as Ireland’s leading public intellectual. He won the Orwell Prize for Journalism and the European Press Prize in 2017 and is a three-time NewsBrands Ireland Journalism Awards Broadsheet Columnist of the Year. He now lives in America where he’s a visiting lecturer in Irish Letters at Princeton University.
The winner was chosen by a combination of an online public vote and a five person judging panel, including Maria Dickensen of Dubray Books and Madeleine Keane of the Sunday Independent.
Dickensen said, “Truly, this is a book for the ages. Fintan O’Toole understands Ireland in a visceral way – it isn’t just politics, but culture and popular culture. He ‘gets’ all of Ireland and its turbulent history during his lifetime.”
Previous winners of the award include A Ghost in the Throat by Doireann Ní Ghríofa, Solar Bones by Mike McCormack and The Spinning Heart by Donal Ryan.