The Black Snow shortlisted for Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award

The Black Snow has been shortlisted for The 2016 Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award.

The 2016 Ireland Francophonie Ambassadors’ Literary Award shortlist is:

John BanvilleAncient Light, Éditions Robert Laffont, 2014, translated by Michèle Albaret-Maatsch

Sebastian BarryThe Temporary Gentleman, Éditions Joëlle Losfeld, 2014, translated by Florence Lévy-Paoloni

Mary CostelloAcademy Street, Éditions du Seuil, 2015, translated by Madeleine Nasalik

Eimear McBrideA Girl Is a Half-formed Thing, Buchet Chastel, 2015, translated by Georgina Tacou

Paul LynchBlack Snow, Albin Michel, 2015, translated by Marina Boraso

Hugo HamiltonEvery Single Minute, Éditions Phébus, 2015, translated by Bruno Boudard.

By |April 24th, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off

New short story on RTE Radio One

RTE Radio 1’s The Book on One will broadcast on Monday 21 March my new short story — The Rage of O’Malley — commissioned by The Singing Fly for its special edition, In the Wake of the Rising, in which 43 writers respond to the cultural legacy of 1916.Stinging_Fly_InTheWakeOfTheRising_grande

The Book on One airs at 11.10pm. You can buy In the Wake of the Rising here. The Rage of O’Malley is the opening short story in the collection.


By |March 21st, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off

The Black Snow wins Prix Libr’à Nous ‘best foreign novel’

THE BLACK SNOW has won the French booksellers’ award, the Prix Libr’à Nous, for best foreign novel. More than 200 booksellers from France, Belgium, Switzerland, Morocco and francophone Canada voted in the award.

The other finalists for best foreign novel were NEVERHOME by Laird Hunt (Actes Sud) and INTÉRIEURLa neige noir, Paul Lynch NUIT by Marisha Pessl (Gallimard). Last year’s winner was David Peace’s RED OR DEAD.

The award will be conferred in Paris on 10 February. The Black Snow, published as LA NEIGE NOIRE in France by Albin Michel, had also been nominated for the Prix FNAC and the Prix Femina.

In the same week, THE BLACK SNOW also won the inaugural Prix des Lecteurs Privat 2016. The prize was founded by Privat, one of France’s oldest bookshops — established in Toulouse in 1839. The jury voted from a list of 12 French and foreign novels released during France’s literary season, the rentrées littéaires 2015.

Prix Libr’à Nous:

Prix des Lecteurs Privat:

By |February 3rd, 2016|Uncategorized|Comments Off

Red Sky in Morning a book of the year in Irish Mail on Sunday

The Irish novelist Peter Cunningham has selected RED SKY IN MORNING in the Irish Mail on Sunday as one of his best books of 2015. Under “My Best Read”, Cunningham said, “Lynch is reinventing the way we use language. Red Sky is a mesmerising litany of cadence and inflection laid on a gripping story. Essential reading”.


By |December 7th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off

The Black Snow No 5 in French Booksellers’ Awards

The French booksellers’ awards has voted The Black Snow as one of the five best international novels published in this year’s rentrée littéraire. Three-hundred booksellers voted from a pool of 205 novels in two categories — French and foreign novels, according to Livres Hebdo.

The best international novels were:

Toni Morrison — Issuances (Bourgois)

Marisha Pessl — Interior Night  (Gallimard)

Jon Kalman Stefansson — Moreover, fish do not have feet of (Gallimard)

Javier Cercas — The Impostor (Actes Sud) 

Paul Lynch — The Black Snow (Albin Michel)


By |September 26th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off

“The total strangeness that is life” — Electric Lit interview

black snowPaul Lynch’s second novel, The Black Snow (Little, Brown and Company, 2015), deserves every writer’s attention for its masterful use of language. Lynch’s prose aligns perfectly with the minds of the protagonists, Barnabas and Eskra Kane: swirling in ever more eccentric loops like Yeats’s lost falcon when we follow the husband; initially ticking and determined then streaming out like an angered hive of bees when we follow the wife.

Nature, and the language which describes it, is elemental in The Black Snow. The craggy lyricism reminds me most of Ted Hughes, where a tree can be “A priest from a different land,” who “Fulminated / Against heather, black stones, blown water. // Excommunicated the clouds / Damned the wind / Cast the bog pools into outer darkness / Smote the horizons / With the jawbones of emptiness // Till he ran out of breath — ”

Lynch’s prose is so vital and so rich, capturing the ineffable meaning of the fire in a way that bare syntax could not. It makes more sense to me to juxtapose his writing with lyric poems than it does to compare it to grit lit or Irish noir.

Critic Alan Cheuse was an outspoken advocate of Paul Lynch. Of The Black Snow he wrote, “As Lynch presents the story, it becomes an out of the ordinary creation, a novel in which sentence after sentence comes so beautifully alive in all the fullness of its diction and meaning that most other contemporary Irish fiction looks sheepish by comparison.”

In 2013, I was fortunate enough to meet Paul Lynch on the red carpeted floors of the Long Hall pub in Dublin. We’ve remained friends since.

Will Chancellor: To date, and I don’t imagine this ever really changing, you’ve written novels with a slow literary speed limit—readers should proceed at maybe twenty pages an hour? This strikes me as a little insane in our scan-centric culture, not dissimilar to a cyclist on the side of a freeway. Do you fear for your life?

Paul Lynch: I do think you must always write for the ideal reader. But it would be folly to worry too much about who exactly that is. Nor do I worry much about the reading speed of a sentence. I think instead about what the sentence is asking for, its texture and feel, the inevitability within it that pulls the reader on.

I ask myself if I have got close enough to what I am writing about. Often, I find the closer you get, the more texture you are going to end up with. That for sure will slow a reader down. And great if it does. Literature is about contemplation not speed-reading for plot or fact. I try to give the reader what I call the startling moment—to take them down to the heartbeat of a character. To open the moment out in all its richness.

There will always be people born wired for books. Every age has its contemplatives.

I certainly do not fear for the life of literature. There will always be people born wired for books. Every age has its contemplatives. But for the writer now, as much as the reader, the internet is the great challenge, isn’t it? Sooner or later, every serious writer will face the question of how much they need to disengage from the noise and unwire their brain from distraction. I’ve got an iPhone in my pocket after I’m finished writing but I might as well be attached to a dopamine drip. The internet generates a constant fear of missing out. It is the tyranny of the new. But what the writer seeks is human truth and that is as old as the ages.

WC: Were you ever serious about photography? Have you ever had a creative impulse that you thought needed a medium other than that of prose?

PL: That is interesting because my writing imagination is intensely visual. A book often begins with a vision, something half-seen that needs to be explored. But it took me some time to figure out my imagination needs to be written. There was a period in my twenties when I thought I might be a photographer. I pored over masters such as Cartier-Bresson and took to the streets. I have an OK eye but I know I don’t have what it takes to be a visual artist. Though I did learn from it. How to see a face. The internal geometry of a scene. How to capture feeling in a place. Whatever it was that I unconsciously sought from photography unlocked when I began to write.

WC: Cartier-Bresson believed in, and tried to capture, that one decisive moment in any scene—not dissimilar to Flaubert’s search for le mot juste. Can you describe the process of finding the decisive moment, which I imagine happens in your head rather than an actual street, and then expanding that moment into a broader scene?

PL: I don’t believe there is any decisive moment as such for the fictional writer—writing is rewriting and though there are many passages in my books that are essentially a first take, everything else can take many, many attempts before it finds the ideal shape. And what makes it ideal? I know it when I read it.

But I do identify with how Cartier-Bresson likened the decisive moment to zen archery, that one must be egoless, alert and present fully in the moment. Meditation forms a part of my daily life and it guides my mind into the necessary space for writing. It seems that I enter some kind of alertful trance when I work. I become the moment in which I am writing. And yet I am there, the author, standing in the river and meddling with the flow.

Being open always to what is given to you is so important. The Black Snow was born entirely from a dream and the moment I woke I began taking notes. I saw the opening of the book as if seen from the sky, watching below as a byre stood burning and cattle ran flaming into the night. I did not know what it was other than that I had been gifted something that resonated deeply.

WC: My favorite scene in Black Snow is when Barnabas breaks the taboo of leaving historical ruins undisturbed and, instead, starts removing the stones of a famine cottage, one wagon load at a time, to build something new for his family. I read this as the work of the writer—particularly the Irish writer: to hell with the solemnity of the past if I need those stones to build out the vision in my head.

PL: King Lear and Job stood in the shadows while I was writing this novel—two men pushed hard by the fates. Barnabas gets pushed hard too and I admire how he rails against what is thrown at him. He is the kind of man who will do whatever it takes to survive, to rebuild his byre and regain a livelihood for his family. Ultimately, he crosses the line and starts to destroy a famine cottage for its stonework. And, of course, this is laden with symbolism. But I’ll leave that for the reader to unpack.

At a glance it might seem that The Black Snow is that certain type of Irish novel—a pastoral story set on a farm. But it seems to me this book is very different, that the writing became an act of creative destruction. That it dismantles the idea of the farm, the dream of the pastoral, the dream of Ireland, slowly, inevitably, piece by piece, until nothing of it is left. 

WC: The Black Snow reads like a ghost story without ghosts—the environment and the characters seem like they’re made of smoke. How do you view the supernatural in this book? 

PL: I am very intrigued by this question because this book is haunted—but not by ghosts. It seems to me what hides in plain sight is the inexplicable. It is an absence that is always present. It is the fourth main character in the book. How do you write about what can’t be written about? I try to bend language until it can suggest the ineffable, the great gap between what we think we know, and what we don’t know. The felt but not expressed. The intuited but not understood, what Wordsworth called “recognitions, dim and faint.” I wanted for the language to come up against the void. A difficult thing, really, and one has to force language into the strangest of places to accommodate this.

I’m interested in how blame rushes to fill an absence…What moves in that gap between knowing and unknowing I think of as ghosts.

Daniel Kahneman has a line: “our predilection for causal thinking exposes us to serious mistakes in evaluating the randomness of truly random events.” How do we respond when tragedy strikes and there is no answer for what caused it? In the book, Barnabas, Billy and Eskra each follow their own private convictions about how the fire started. There are no answers in The Black Snow and yet everybody believes they know who is to blame and thus act upon it, pulling the strings of the book’s ending together. I’m interested in how blame rushes to fill an absence. I wanted to explore how we live our lives in certainty, only to discover that we really know nothing, that the truth is we are philosophically blind. And yet the human mind cannot help but tell itself narratives to explain the world. What moves in that gap between knowing and unknowing I think of as ghosts.

WC: And yet the process of writing is one of intuitive flashes, things that lack causes.  

PL: Writing is following the sky of your mind. Who knows from where the winds blow. Or perhaps we are diviners. You cannot see the spring beneath but suddenly there is a twitch in the stick. What do you think?

WC: Diviners? There is something of the medieval serf in a writer—miserable or too dense to be miserable, toothless, holding up a chicken bone from the mud and swearing that it’s a fossil, indisputable proof in the existence of elves. 

How far removed are the Kanes from the miseries of medieval peasantry? You’ve set both of your novels to date in a rural world governed by the most universal needs: food, shelter, safety. It’s the world familiar to the speaker’s father in “Digging,” by Heaney:

The cold smell of potato mould, the squelch and slap
Of soggy peat, the curt cuts of an edge
Through living roots awaken in my head.
But I’ve no spade to follow men like them.

Can you talk about the decision to strip away everything–electricity, politics, global interdependence–and focus on primal and immediate concerns?

PL: What I’m interested in discovering is human truth. What does it mean to be alive within the dream of life? It seems to me there are essential human truths that have never changed throughout the ages, and that what we think of as unique to our own time is, in fact, the general. I am convinced, as a writer, that we must be able to witness ourselves as we have been moved and shaped by such universal forces. And so the writing must be shaped a certain way to meet this challenge. Being mythic certainly helps as it implies distance in order to see things better.

WC: Are these questions that have real, discoverable answers? Do you think you will find them in writing and say, whew, that was tough. Now on to my sci-fi book?

Fiction is necessary because it seems to me that only fiction can accommodate the total strangeness that is life.

PL: I believe it is worth writing to remind ourselves of what we can’t know. To remind ourselves that certainty is dangerous. That factual knowledge of the world casts only a small light. Fiction is necessary because it seems to me that only fiction can accommodate the total strangeness that is life. To remind us that truth is actually impossible. And as the writer grows, so changes their perception of the world and with it more things to write about. And so I can’t ever imagine getting tired.

Interview available here

By |September 26th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off

The Black Snow nominated for Prix Femina 2015

liste_Les-romans-etrangers-selectionnes-pour-le-Prix-Fem_1346The Black Snow (Le neige noire) has been nominated for the Prix Femina 2015…. that’s all for now.

By |September 17th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off

The Black Snow nominated for Prix du Roman Fnac 2015

The Black Snow, which will be published in France as La neige noir on 20 August, hprixfnacromanas been nominated for the 2015 prix du Roman Fnac, a major French literary prize.

The prix du Roman FNAC is open to French and international novelists and is a selection of 30 books out of 589 novels published over the course of just a couple of weeks as part of France’s ‘rentrée littéraire’.

In an advance review of La neige noir in France’s Livres Hebdo, critic Alexandre Fillon says: “Red Sky in Morning already showed the vast talent of Paul Lynch. The Donegal native illustrates again with a second opus equally successful… a novel that grabs you from the start”.


By |July 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off

The Black Snow review in the Toronto Star

Emily Donaldson reviews The Black Snow in The Toronto Star:

“Paul Lynch’s The Black Snow is, like its predecessor, Red Sky in Morning, a fierce and stunning novel written in chiaroscuro; its darkness always threatening to absorb its light. The Irish author’s gnarled, lustrous prose style is peppered with local vernacular; his literary sensibility an ornate version of the American Gothic of McCarthy and Faulkner. Throw in an elastic attitude to grammar and all of this has a thrillingly defamiliarizing effect: though he’s writing in English, Lynch makes you feel like you’ve magically acquired the ability to understand a foreign language…”

Full review here

By |July 30th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off

NPR’s Alan Cheuse reviews The Black Snow

NPR’s legendary book critic Alan Cheuse says The Black Snow’s prose is so gorgeous, it makes him want to give up writing…

Here’s the full review:

Former Dublin newsman Paul Lynch made his debut as a novelist a few years ago with a book called Red Sky in Morning, set in mid-19th century County Donegal, where a rage-driven farmer has committed a murder with devastating results. The Black Snow, Lynch’s second novel, returns us to Donegal, though at a later date, and he’s working at an even higher level of accomplishment than before.

The year is 1945. Allied aircraft fly overhead on their way to bomb a Germany in the last movement of its dark symphony of hate and war. On the ground, a farmer named Barnabas Kane, his Irish-American wife, Eskra, and their teenage son Billy suffer what Barnabas suspects may have been a terrible act of arson. Or doubly terrible, we might say, since the fire in the farm’s cow barn not only destroys all of his livestock, but also takes the life of a trusted farmhand who’d rushed in, at the urging of his boss, to try to save the animals.

This by itself would have made a compelling novel: A man and his wife — Barnabas and Eskra — struggling against adversity, the loss of their herd, and the mixed response of the nearby villagers. (Kane is, in the local parlance, a “local stranger” — which is to say, someone who emigrated to America to make his fortune, and then returned to his home county, where in these circumstances he is held at arms’ length by many of the inhabitants.)

As Lynch presents the story, it becomes an out of the ordinary creation, a novel in which sentence after sentence comes so beautifully alive in all the fullness of its diction and meaning that most other contemporary Irish fiction looks sheepish by comparison.

Lynch’s language is rough-hewn and yet beautifully lyrical, uncommonly conducted with as many vowels as consonants, and thus diverging from the raw piercing strength of traditional Celtic diction. I could scarcely read more than a few pages at a time without having to stop and contemplate quitting the writing of fiction myself, rather than compete with passages like Lynch’s description of doomed farmhand Matthew Peoples, who has a face like “a dream of sand … A face like a lived-in map. The high terrain of his cheekbones and the spread of red veins on the pads of his cheeks like great rivers were written on him.”

Or Barnabas’ farm after a big storm, “The sky distant and inert and its lungs blown out.” Or — more weather — the farmer studying the sky and seeing “a ridge of low cloud like dirt snow sided on a road. What it met shined from over the hills, an eternal blue that spoke the world could be perfect if it wanted to.” But there’s danger here, too. Fire can “forge its own weather” and the sound of “the fire’s hunger” as it devours Barnabas’ barn is “like some enormous force let loose upon the world — an epic thing that held within its violence the fierce, rolling energy of the sea.”

Through this landscape of hope and menace Barnabas Kane trundles, a good man hampered by stubbornness, pride and a gargantuan lack of empathy for his wife and son; at one point he risks everything in his life rather than suffer embarrassment. Sentence by sentence we read about how his world comes apart, even as Lynch’s language binds everything together — nature, character, time and the wild paradoxical aspiration of a novelist driven to try and make sense out of the inexplicable.

By |May 15th, 2015|Uncategorized|Comments Off