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Sunday, June 07, 2009

Making an IMPAC


Maybe you've heard of it – I never did before – but Integrated Control Systems (aka IMPAC), an international company incorporated in Florida, offers some impressive-sounding solutions to business management problems. I say impressive-sounding, because the approach seems to be based on common sense, the kind of thing you don't learn about in management school.

Fifteen years ago, the IMPAC team surveyed their employees worldwide about their likes and dislikes, what they enjoyed doing, etc
. The study revealed that one characteristic the majority shared was a love of reading. Partly as a result of this finding, The International IMPAC Dublin Literary Award was born soon thereafter, representing a partnership between the Dublin (Ireland) City Council, the Government of Dublin City, and IMPAC. The annual award is administered by the Dublin City Public Libraries.

First presented in 1996, it is the largest and most international prize of its kind and is open to books written in any language provided they have been published in English or English translation. The prize of €100,000 is awarded to the author if the book is written in English. If the winning book is an English translation, €75,000 goes to the author and the translator receives €25,000. The winner also receives a Waterford Crysta
l trophy, which you can kind of see in the picture above.

Libraries
in major cities throughout the world make the nominations, up to three novels per library each year. Semi-finalists are announced in October or November. The shortlist, up to a maximum of ten titles, is made public in March or April, with the winner being announced in June.

Last year, Beirut-born Rawi Hage, now living in Canada, won the award with his novel, De Niro's
Game. The book is – are you ready for this? – his debut novel.

Out Stealing Horses, written by Per Petterson of Norway and translated by Anne Born, took the prize in 2007.

A compilation of all the shortlists and a list of winners from 1996 through 2008, including the shortlist for this year, can be found on Wikipedia.

So wh
at's the deal with a firm specializing in corporate management teaming up with a European city government in such an unlikely project? For one thing, Dublin calls itself "The City of Literature," a moniker earned because of the number of world-renowned writers haling from and/or educated there. (Jonathan Swift, Oliver Goldsmith, Oscar Wilde, Bram Stoker, George Bernard Shaw, James Joyce… you get the picture.)

For its part, IMPAC, being professionally involved in productivity improvement, is concerned with social improvement as well, and sees this literary award program as a means to encourage and reward excellence. In keeping with that goal, they've also developed the IMAC Young Writers Awards in conjunction with other organizations and institutions in the Czech Republic, Malaysia, Thailand, and the US.

This is refreshing in an era in which too many people bemoan the state of things and too few take steps to do something about it. True, promoting good literature won't save the world, but – particularly with the emphasis on young writers – it can be a step in a positive direction.
The family of IMPAC literary awards encourages excellence in writing, and exposes readers to a variety of viewpoint and subject matter in first-class literature.

These awards might not change the world, but they'll certainly impact my reading list.

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