TUAMGRANEY native Edna O’Brien is to be awarded France’s highest cultural honour on the eve of International Women’s Day next Monday.
The multi-award winning novelist will be named Commander of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French culture minister, Roselyne Bachelot. The online ceremony will be also attended by Irish culture minister Catherine Martin, actor Gabriel Byrne and writer Colum McCann.
The French Embassy in Ireland said the honour is being made in recognition of “the struggle of a committed feminist who offered a voice to women around the world”. The citation also described Ms O’Brien as “one of the greatest writers of the twentieth century”.
The Commander of the Ordre des Arts et Lettres is France’s highest cultural distinction and Ms O’Brien will join previous Irish recipients, Bono and the late Séamus Heaney.
The Clare author previously made French literary history in 2019 when she was awarded the prestigious Prix Femina and became the first ever non-national to do so. That award was made by an exclusively female jury in honour of Ms O’Brien’s entire body of work.
Last December when Ms O’Brien turned 90, international tributes poured in reflecting her huge literary status. Among the initiatives to celebrate the event was the unveiling of a new portrait of her at the National Gallery of Ireland. The work, a commission by photographer Mandy O’Neill, was among the many tributes to the author to mark the milestone.
The East Clare woman’s previous accolades include the Irish PEN Lifetime Achievement Award, the American National Arts Gold Medal, the Frank O’Connor Prize, and the PEN/Nabokov Award for Achievement in International Literature.
At Sunday evening’s ceremony, Ms O’Brien will read from her most recent novel Girl, a
book that deals with the kidnapping of Nigerian schoolgirls by the militant Islamist group Boko Haram.
The event takes place online on Sunday from 5-6pm and registrations can be made at Eventbrite.com.