Mark O’Connell was awarded the Rooney Prize for Irish Literature 2019 at Trinity College Dublin for his debut, To Be a Machine. This is the first time the €10,000 award has been made for a work of nonfiction.
Announcing the 2019 winner, member of the prize jury Prof Michael Cronin said: “In his book which takes a personal look at the transhumanist movement – a movement which hopes through technology to enhance human capacities and eventually overcome human mortality – Mark O’Connell shows himself to be a writer of the first rank. His faultless characterisation, his deep interest in the humanity of his transhumanists, his engagingly precise but poetic style, his richly insightful observations on questions which are literally life and death issues, marked out him as a writer of unquestionable promise.
The prize benefactor, Dr Peter Rooney, said: “I am delighted to see the award go to a writer of such original and fresh writing. The vision for it has always been to reward new talent and Mark is most deserving of this year’s award.”
The prize is awarded for a body of work by emerging Irish writers that shows exceptional promise. The author joins the auspicious ranks of former winners such as Colin Barrett, Sara Baume, Anne Enright and Frank McGuinness among many others.
O’Connell said: “It’s a delight, and a real surprise, to be chosen as the winner of this year’s Rooney Prize for Irish literature. It’s especially thrilling to be the first writer of non-fiction to be awarded the prize. I’m deeply grateful to the prize committee and to the Rooney family for this wonderful honour.”
O’Connell’s book, To Be a Machine: Adventures Among Cyborgs, Utopians, Hackers, and the Futurists Solving the Modest Problem of Death, was published by Granta in 2017. The book also won the Wellcome Book Prize in 2018.
His next book, Notes from an Apocalypse: a personal journey to the end of the world and back, will be published by Granta in 2020.