An Evening with Award-Winning Author Caoilinn Hughes

Thursday, November 30, 2023 

Pictured Above: Caoilinn Hughes. Photo Credit: Robin Christian.



Princeton, NJ – Princeton University’s Fund for Irish Studies continues its 2023-2024 series with a reading by award-winning Irish writer Caoilinn Hughes, author of the novel The Wild Laughter (2020), which won the Royal Society of Literature’s Encore Award. Visiting Leonard L. Milberg ’53 Professor in Irish Letters Fintan O’Toole will introduce Hughes at the event on December 1 at 4:30 p.m. at the James Stewart Film Theater at 185 Nassau Street. 

At Princeton, Hughes plans to read one of her recent short stories, “Creep,” which has been published in Granta. She will also read an excerpt from her third novel, The Alternatives, giving audiences a sneak preview of the book before it is published in April 2024. An unforgettable family portrait, The Alternatives follows four Irish sisters who were plunged prematurely into adulthood when their parents died in tragic circumstances. Now in their thirties and living disparate lives, three are brought unexpectedly together in search of one sister who doesn’t want to be found. Commenting on how Hughes explores some of today’s most pressing issues in the novel including the environment and politics, fellow novelist Rumaan Alam calls The Alternatives “both a book of ideas and a gripping read, formally audacious yet deeply humane.”

Hughes is a poet, novelist, and short story writer. Her first novel, Orchid & the Wasp (2018), won the Collyer Bristow Prize, was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, and was a finalist for four other awards. Her second novel, The Wild Laughter (2020), was longlisted for the Dylan Thomas Prize and named a finalist for three other awards in addition to receiving the 2021 Royal Society of Literature Encore Award. Her poetry collection, Gathering Evidence (2014), won the Irish Times Shine/Strong Award. For her short fiction, Hughes has earned The Moth Short Story Prize, the Irish Book Awards’ Story of the Year 2020, and an O. Henry Prize. She has been a Writer Fellow at Trinity College Dublin and Maastricht University in the Netherlands, and she holds a Ph.D. from Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand. She is currently a Cullman Fellow at New York Public Library for 2023-2024.

O’Toole’s books on politics include the recent best sellers We Don’t Know Ourselves: A Personal History of Modern Ireland and Heroic Failure: Brexit and the Politics of Pain. His books on theater include works on William Shakespeare, George Bernard Shaw, Richard Brinsley Sheridan, and Thomas Murphy. He regularly contributes to The New York Review of BooksThe New Yorker, GrantaThe GuardianThe Observer, and other international publications. In 2011, The Observer named O’Toole one of “Britain’s top 300 intellectuals.” He has received the A.T. Cross Award for Supreme Contribution to Irish Journalism, the Millennium Social Inclusion Award, Journalist of the Year in 2010, the Orwell Prize, and the European Press Prize. O’Toole’s History of Ireland in 100 Objects, which covers 100 highly charged artifacts from the last 10,000 years, is currently the basis for Ireland’s postage stampsHe has recently been appointed official biographer of Nobel Prize-winning poet Seamus Heaney. In 2023, O’Toole was named an International Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

The Fund for Irish Studies is chaired this year by O’Toole and affords all Princeton students, and the community at large, a wider and deeper sense of the languages, literatures, drama, visual arts, history, and economics not only of Ireland but of “Ireland in the world.” The lecture series is co-produced by the Lewis Center for the Arts.

The Fund for Irish Studies is generously sponsored by the Durkin Family Trust and the James J. Kerrigan Jr. ’45 and Margaret M. Kerrigan Fund for Irish Studies.

The event is free and open to the public; no tickets are required. The theater is an accessible venue, and guests in need of access accommodations are invited to contact the Lewis Center at at least one week prior to the event date.

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